Louise Glück's "Siren"

Updated on September 27, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Louise Glück



In Glück's poem, "Siren," the narrator is a woman who fell in love with a married man. Her narration unveils some frightening thought processes.

The narration in "Siren" presents itself in nine unriming versagraphs which vary greatly in number and rhythm. They seemed to lurch in a fevered pitch to match the underlying psychological disturbance of the speaker.

The title will remind the literary minded and the enthusiasts for the mythology of Homer's The Odyssey, in which the sea nymphs attracted sailors with their mesmerizing singing, luring them to their deaths. However, ultimately, this speaker seems to be using the term simply to mean seductress or temptress without any meaningful allusion to the myth.

First Versagraph: "I became a criminal when I fell in love"
The opening sounds a bit like a slapstick joke: "I became a criminal when I fell in love. / Before that I was a waitress." The speaker engages a mystery immediately by claiming to have become a criminals after falling in love.

By claiming she was a waitress then became a criminal, the speaker seems to equate those two positions. The reader will likely think of Bonnie and Clyde, who fell in love and then became notorious criminals.

Second Versagraph: "I didn't want to go to Chicago with you"
From what seems to be the addressing of a general audience in the first versagraph, the speaker shifts to speaking directly to the married man whose lover she became. The speaker confides to the man that although she wanted to marry him, she did not wish to travel to Chicago with him.

The speaker wanted the man's wife "to suffer." Because the speaker is suffering, she projects her desire for her rival to suffer. No doubt such thinking makes the speaker realize her crime of passion, thus rendering her the criminal she thinks herself to have become.

The speaker's thoughts are destructive, and she seems to know that they negatively impact the man's wife as well as herself.

Third Versagraph: "I wanted her life to be like a play"
The speaker continues to declaim about her crime against the wife, saying she wanted the woman to play all the "sad parts," as if in a play. The speaker has become unhinged.

She is so jealous of the innocent woman that she allows herself to engage in a rage that renders her delusional.

Fourth and Fifth Verse Paragraphs: "Does a good person"
As one might expect, the speaker now engages in musing on her criminality. She asks if good people think like this. Of course, that question is rhetorical, she knows good people do not think that way. And she begins to offer what she "deserves" for such thinking, but then she leaves what she deserves for the next versagraph.

This trailing off of thought shows that she is still trying to decide exactly what is she deserves. But then she seems to pull herself back from thinking negatively about what she deserves to claim she deserves "credit" for her "courage."

Does she really deserve such credit? Just how has she shown any courage?

The speaker seems to be attempting to assuage her criminality, to lighten her guilt for having fallen in love with a married man and then having destructive thoughts about the innocent and wronged wife.

Sixth Versagraph: "I sat in the dark on your front porch"
The speaker reveals that a while back she sat on her love's porch in the dark. Now she is admitting to stalking her lover, which is definitely a criminal act—not just a psychologically criminal act but an act that is against the law.

But then she engages in her own folly of rationalization: if his wife really loved him, she would gladly turn him over to the speaker. After all if the wife really love him, she would want him to be happy. And these speaker has obviously assumed that only she can make him happy.

In the speaker's delusional thinking, the wife's desire to keep her marriage in tact is just a selfish act which demonstrates the wife's lack of love for the man she married.

Seventh Versagraph: "I think now"
Continuing in her derangement, the speaker concludes that her problem is that she feels too much; she delusively claims, "If I felt less I would be / A better person."

To support this claim, she offers the detail of being a good waitress, able to carry "eight drinks." Of course, the one thing has nothing to do with the other. Feeling deeply and carrying drinks remain unrelated and speak nothing about the character of the deep-feeler/drinks-carrier.

Eighth and Ninth Verse Paragraphs: "I used to tell you my dreams"
The speaker now reports that she used to tell her paramour about her dreams. She then describes the dream she experienced "last night."

In this dream, a weeping woman is leaving on bus. The woman waves good-bye to someone with one hand; the other hand is stroking "an egg carton" filled with babies.

The dream is a mashed up yet perfect representation of the speaker's mangled thought processes. Are the babies human or are they just little chicks? Does it matter? The speaker must think not. What is important to her is that this dream, no matter how she interprets it, will not "rescue" her. She is a lost "maiden" who will have find some way to pay for her crime.

Tribute to Louise Glück, Part 1

Tribute to Louise Glück, Part 2

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Linda Sue Grimes


    Submit a Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)