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The Wild Iris

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  4,042 ratings  ·  180 reviews
This collection of stunningly beautiful poems encompasses the natural, human, and spiritual realms, and is bound together by the universal themes of time and mortality. With clarity and sureness of craft, Gluck's poetry questions, explores, and finally celebrates the ordeal of being alive.
Paperback, 80 pages
Published November 1st 1993 by Ecco (first published 1992)
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The Collected Poems by Wallace StevensThe Waking by Theodore Roethke77 Dream Songs by John BerrymanThe Wild Iris by Louise GlückThe Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath
Pulitzer Winners: Poetry
4th out of 99 books — 36 voters
The Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanShakespeare's Sonnets by William ShakespeareThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. EliotAriel by Sylvia Plath
Best Poetry Books
157th out of 1,547 books — 1,697 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dale Harcombe
rating and review to come.
It's taken me a little while to think about what to write.
This is an interesting collection with poems told in different voices. Those with flower names are related by nature, the vespers and Matins by humans while others to do with weather, seasons and light are related by God. In some poems the poet reveals God’s heart as He grieves over humankind’s choices and turning away from Him, their inability to see Him or listen to Him, and their inability to grow as He would
Full Disclosure: I was assigned this book for a workshop and probably wouldn't have ever found the time to read it if that hadn't been the case. "Retreating Light," one of Louise Gluck's poems within Wild Iris, is one of my favorite poems. (I actually give it to students on the last day of class every year, as it encapsulates so much of what I think about teaching.) After reading this entire book of poetry, I was initially still a fan of Louise Gluck's, but I didn't find myself as moved by the e ...more
The Table of Contents reads like the poet's inventory of the flowers in her garden. There's the "Wild Iris", "Trillium", "Lamium", "Snowdrops", etc... Along with a multitude of "Matins" and "Vespers". Why the poet chose to name multiple poems "Matins" and "Vespers" may be a commentary on the plant, or a commentary on the prevalence of these particular plants in her garden.

More likely, the poet is using the "Matins" and "Vespers" to create a broader and more universal commentary. Indeed, this col
Nathan Long
I was at the library the other day, and I saw the Pulitzer sticker and the name Louise on The Wild Iris and my mind automatically put Erdrich on the end of it. I decided to skim it a bit, realized first it was poetry, not a novel, then realized that it had nothing to do with Erdrich, but I liked what I read so much I finished the collection. Best misunderstanding I've had in a while.

I don't think I would have ever chosen this had I not accidentally connected this to something I loved so much as
The most common piece of criticism that I hear about Louise Glück is that she needs to “stop writing about flowers.” I suppose that’s valid, but a bit simplistic. I do feel that at times she is working too hard to find meaning in clovers or something, just so she can fill up the collection. But for me, the vast majority of these poems really work. I can’t really say that I fully understand the nuances of poetry and what makes a poem good or bad, so if you are a more casual reader of poetry, like ...more
This beautiful collection reminds me of why I secretly love poetry. I don't know much poetry, and I can't say much about it. In the course of earning a degree in English, I had only one teacher who mentioned things like prosody. But The Wild Iris is just phenomenal. I read this book as part of an institutionalized book club in my graduate program, and as I read I cringed every time I finished a poem, thinking "What am I going to say?" "What's significant here?" "How will we discuss this for an e ...more
In a perfect marriage of concept and craft, this book is a powerful study of how much can be said while paying close attention to the economy of words. Glück's simple lines and plain vocabulary match perfectly with her well developed themes, her questioning of human behavior and our struggle with whether we are a part of the natural or spiritual world.
A subject that I rarely read about in the discussion of poetry is point-of-view; yet in this book, it is the crux of each of these poems. Glück
These poems at first seem simple, but they're deceptive and pitch-perfect, ranging from the voices of wild and planted flowers to the voice of a depressed and cynical, but still spiritual, gardener, to the voices of God and Nature (or both at once). This book holds together as a whole with themes of loss and abandonment, simplicity, yearning, and mystery, but each poem is also a sparkling little jewel. Worth repeated reads to get all the marrow out of the bones, this is a definite keeper and has ...more
Feb 01, 2011 H added it
Shelves: poetry-americas
Forgive me if I say I love you: the powerful
are always lied to since the weak are always
driven by panic.

Not I, you idiot, not self, but we, we--waves
of sky blue like
a critique of heaven: why
do you treasure your voice
when to be one thing
is to be next to nothing?

Your souls should have been immense by now,
not what they are,
small talking things--

Hush, beloved. It doesn't matter to me
how many summers I live to return:
this one summer we have entered eternity.
Katie Pingle
The Wild Iris leaves room for interpretation-- the reader is left with the challenge of deciding who is speaking and what drives the speaker. It becomes clear that 3 voices can be heard: a poet/gardener, the voice of the flowers, and a divine voice. Gluck's use of fragmentation and common word choice helps enhance the confusion of self found in the collection. The use of nature is playful and helps take the content away from a confessional/ autobiographic poem to a more open interpretation. The ...more
Maria Fordiani
beautiful writing, but since most of the book is about struggles of religious faith, it didn't personally connect with me that much. there were still some gorgeous, hard-hitting lines though, and it was definitely worth the read.
A painfully beautiful cycle of poems filled with biblical and natural imagery. Glück alternates between describing the flowers in her garden and taking on the voice of a flower herself, as she explores themes of joy, pain, death, and rebirth. This little Pulitzer Prize-winning book ends in fall and begins again in spring, prompting readers to flip back to page 1 which begins:

"At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

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

Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
Apr 07, 2015 Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!} rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: modern day poetry fans
Recommended to Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!} by: Shayda Kafai
Can I just say WOW! This is a short collection of poetry, but my god, I wish I could underline some of these stanzas, and use them for inspiration. Really powerful, moving, and relateable.

I need to get my own copy soon.
Tam G
I had a mixed reaction to this book. It's split into 3 general POVs: nature/flower, human/writer, creator/God. While I like flowers, I didn't like most of those. It's hard to anthropomorphize something so common. Everyone has a different feel for the object's personality. Unless you say something quite profound you lose that tenuous connection with the reader.

On the other hand, I very much enjoyed the other 2 POVs, more because of the feel and theme than the technique. There was a certain exper
This book is very slim— I think it's less than 80 pages— and it still packs an intense punch. This is because the POINT of the collection is the intensity. Glück is writing at that intolerable place of depression and faith where nothing makes sense. Or it makes a horrible sense, which is worse.

I am
at fault, at fault, I asked you
to be human—


She's using the lens of her garden to deal with straight up existential despair, but she doesn't stay there, which would be easier. She feels that you
This book is a lovely indulgence. Louise Gluck speaks in turn as plants, the gardeners and God, but the wisdom in her poems also applies to human relations and existential questions. This slim but meaty book could be used as a prayerbook or hymnal. Not a word is wasted, but Gluck manages to paint vivid, impressionistic landscapes nonetheless. Word people will delight in the construction and originality. Gardeners can appreciate the eye for detail for habitats and seasons. Believers and seekers w ...more
Nicholas Montemarano
It takes a lot for me to call a book my favorite (see: TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, favorite novel, JESUS' SON, favorite story collection, and WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, favorite play), but THE WILD IRIS by Louise Gluck is my favorite book of poetry as of yesterday when I finished it. It speaks to me on spiritual, emotional, and artistic levels—my trifecta when it comes to reading. I've never been one to care much for "little" books (not talking about thickness/page numbers but the questions a book ...more
This book explored a personalized account of the very delicate subject of faith in God. It displays three main perspectives, which are the voices of the flowers/plants, God, and a human narrator, who is a female gardener. It contains very beautiful imagery of flowers, and how they relate to the narrator's struggle to believe in God in terms of appearance and "behavior". The subject at hand is a very controversial one that anyone can relate to, whether they are faithful or not. I recommend this b ...more
Melissa Hall
The Wild Iris was a pleasure to read the first time and proved even more pleasurable upon reading it the second time. The poems within the book are able to stand on their own. However,read together the book reveals distinct speakers who create a dialogue that raises philosophical questions. That is not to say the dialogue is occurring between the speakers. Rather, it is the reader who benefits from the speakers inability to communicate. In The Wild Iris Louise Gluck uses stark images and simple ...more
Christian Hendriks
I suppose I like poetry that is philosophical, but does not allow the philosophy to overwhelm the aesthetics. Wild Iris achieves this balance. The speakers contemplate mortality, immortality, revelation, and learning, in a conversation (mainly consisting of speaking past each other) between flowers, God, and (presumably) Gluck. It is quiet, calm, and rooted in both sorrow and beauty. It is the blues of the fallen garden, the reprimand of those who know they cannot be heard.

Look, it's just very w
maybe as high as 4 1/2 stars. perfect for spring. or fall. any time when it's a season, really.... lol. so graceful in her movements, and the rhetorical construction of each piece is like grecian pillars--classic, elegant, stirring. It reads easily, but often hits such depths that the resonances have to sit for a few seconds, minutes, days, years... who's counting. has something slightly unconventional. i love the repetition, especially of the matins. an elegiac poet in the voice of flowers. it ...more
Mar 25, 2008 Weihui rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Weihui by: James Midgley
Shelves: poetry
Gluck balances precariously between telling and showing. I've read some of her words in magazines (The Paris Review) and other collections, and I find that she often tips too far in the "telling" direction to be an engaging read -- but in "The Wild Iris", she absolutely pulls it off. The light dabbles of imagery and feminine gentleness complement her more concrete and interesting philosophical ideas; although the collection's overall metaphor is obvious, each specific poem examines a varied sele ...more
Drew Wilkinson
Gluck bridges the gaps between humanity, nature, and the divine, all while maintaining the clear separations and anxieties between those parties. She draws on both personal and abstract concepts to invoke a sense of closeness to the self while still appealing to the experiences and feelings that touch us all. With a variety of tones, from distant to absolutely interwoven, from defeat to defiance, Gluck draws on the communication and separation between these different parties, aspects of a whole ...more
Guion used to tell me that he didn't like Louise Glück and made fun of people who did, but then I pointed out that he had a copy of "The Wild Iris" on the poetry shelf. "Oh," he said, "Well, that book is really wonderful." And it is! (Apparently, he has since changed his tune about Glück overall.) The poetry is very spare and mysterious. Glück talks to God in her garden, and God talks back. It is beautiful and ethereal and yet your hands are always in the dirt. Quite an accomplishment. It is a s ...more
Somewhere between 4 to 4.5 stars for me.

This is a lovely collection of poems. With so much left unsaid and with so much of what _is_ said being so quiet, I (as a reader) instinctively guard myself against trying to read these poems through the lens of grand Renaissance themes (e.g. creation, religious faith, humanity etc.) - I want to read them as conversations instead. I also want to avoid being distracted by the beauty laced in the poems (and some of them are quite beautiful), and I want to ig
Miles Jochem (Editorial Intern, Tin House Magazine): I keep coming back to Louise Glück’s book The Wild Iris. Simple and unassuming upon first glance, this cycle of poems contains a multitude of voices and meanings. The verses are told largely from the perspective of contemplative flowers addressing their fellow plants, the changing seasons, and the people who shape their stationary lives. Glück uses the language of botany and the tropes of vegetation to craft a series of mournful observations a ...more
As I read many of these poems, I felt like I had read them before, and while I don’t cherish this poet’s somber, serious voice, I cherish the thinking she inspired in me. Sometimes she writes a poem from her perspective, including her family, and other times she is a flower speaking, and still others she is God speaking to us. I didn't respond as deeply to her God poems because I don’t view God in the same way, the Judeo-Christian one, but they are incredibly interesting anyways.
Try to read thes
Absolutely beautiful. I loved the multiple structures that gave the volume a sense of progression (time of day, time of year, recurring images) and was mesmerized by at least half of the individual poems. When I finished, I immediately started reading again from the beginning-- I'm glad I own this one, so I can keep going back to it!
Emilia P
I don't actually read poetry very often, and it's probably because I am impatient to get to meaning, which is unfortunate, I am missing out on a world of beautiful stuff. I picked this one up because it was on the Writer's Almanac and also because there's a particular poem that someone gave me to me in a letter that's stuck with me -- April -- which sits in the middle of this volume that has a very great evenness of tone -- the book seems to be a frustrated conversation between Gluck, her plants ...more
K. Ann
Privy to visceral thoughts, conversation and prayers, we are shown into a place of earthy, ethereal beauty and told of profound connections and deeply personal disconnects that somehow become a call, an answer or a gentle nudging toward our own existential inquiry. Yet, we come there on our own. The speakers' voice working at times as a quake, a distant beckoning or even a full-on summons to truth through some elusive yet held understanding, myth, faith or organic need. One that we can no longer ...more
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Glück was born in New York City of Hungarian Jewish heritage and grew up on Long Island. Glück attended Sarah Lawrence College and later Columbia University.

Glück is the author of twelve books of poetry, including: "A Village Life" (2009); Averno (2006), which was a finalist for The National Book Award; The Seven Ages (2001); Vita Nova (1999), which was awarded The New Yorker's Book Award in Poetr
More about Louise Glück...
Averno The First Four Books of Poems Meadowlands Ararat Faithful and Virtuous Night: Poems

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“I don’t need your praise
to survive. I was here first,
before you were here, before
you ever planted a garden.
And I’ll be here when only the sun and moon
are left, and the sea, and the wide field.

I will constitute the field.”
“...whatever/ returns from oblivion/ returns to find a voice.” 16 likes
More quotes…