Poetry Sunday: The Wild Iris by Louise Glück

American poet Louise Glück was announced as the winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature this week. The Nobel committee cited her "unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal." She is considered by many to be one of America's most talented contemporary poets. Her poetry is marked by technical precision, sensitivity, and insight into loneliness, family relationships, divorce, and death. Here is one of her most famous poems which describes what it means to live, die, and be reborn again an endless number of times as a flower. A wild iris.  

The Wild Iris

by Louise Glück

At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.

Comments

  1. Before the Nobel Prize award I had never heard of Glück. This and some other verse that I have just read from her is outstanding. I need to read more of her work. I need to read more poetry in general.

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    Replies
    1. I think she is not as well known as some of our other poets and that may be because her poetry is not necessarily immediately accessible and understandable, but for anyone willing to take time to "get it" it contains a lot of wisdom and sensitivity.

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  2. It really does capture the unending, ever-repeating cycle of life, doesn't it?

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  3. Very fitting for this time of year.

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  4. I wonder what our voices will be next time. Perhaps all of us who love flowers love them for a reason.

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    1. In the cycle of life, blooming as a flower wouldn't be so bad.

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  5. This one has piqued my interest. I didn't know much about Gluck either (before the Prize announcement) but have put myself on the wait list for her collection 1962-2012. thx for highlighting this poem.

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    1. It's interesting that she seems so little known among average readers, among whose number I count myself. I admit I had read very little of her poetry before this prize was announced, but I'm finding that I very much like what I read.

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  6. I will be getting my hands on her poetry collection.

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    1. It's nice that the award has piqued interest in her work and that it might now be more widely read.

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  7. Thanks for sharing one of Louise Gluck's poems as I'm not sure if I've ever read her poetry before.

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    1. I'm glad to do my tiny bit to make her poetry a little better known.

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