What Is the Plot of the Poem “Gretel in Darkness” by Louise Gluck?

“Gretel in Darkness” by Louise Gluck is a poem about death, darkness and loneliness told in the first-person perspective by the character Gretel from the fairytale “Hansel and Gretel” to her brother, Hansel. In the poem, Gretel talks about seeing the witch, sleeping in her father’s house and wondering whether she is alone. Despite its name, the poem is more an abstraction of anxious feelings than a story about characters.

Louise Gluck is an American poet known for mixing mythology with poetry while touching on themes such as loneliness, family and death. According to the Poetry Foundation, Gluck’s lyric poetry can be described as spare and intimate/ Her poems have been published in books such as “Firstborn, The House on Marshland,” “The Garden,” “The Triumph of Achilles” and “The Wild Iris.” Her straightforward language barren of adjectives and wordiness leads Gluck’s readers into the deepest parts of human nature.

Gluck was born in 1943 and grew up on Long Island before attending Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University. She published her first book of poetry, “Firstborn,” in 1968. She was named the 12th U.S. Poet Laureate in 2003, and she was appointed judge for the Yale Series of Younger Poets.