Johnny's Reviews > The Wild Iris

The Wild Iris by Louise Glück
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Mar 24, 10

bookshelves: pulitzer-poetry, poetry, books-i-ve-taught, religion
Read from March 17 to 23, 2010

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 entire book as I am by "Retreating Light."

Then in class, discussing the book with fellow teachers led by a BU literature professor, I found my understanding of the text growing and blossoming into a true appreciation for how wonderful it is. Had I known a few things prior to reading Wild Iris, I would have enjoyed it this much even without dissecting it with other teachers. Here is what is essential for understanding:

The poems all create a loose narrative based on the Book of Genesis. Three voices are utilized throughout: the humans (principally Eve), God, and nature itself. God speaks through poems titled by weather (including the seasons and light) and nature speaks through poems titled for individual flowers, who individually serve as speakers within the poems. The human voice surfaces in poems titled mostly as supplications to God (ie: "Matins" and "Vespers).

Knowing all of that is essential to a critical reading of the book. (Obviously, multiple readings would provide this same insight, but I thought I'd save anyone who is interested some time!) The resulting reading is actually far removed from the original Biblical text as Louise Gluck has actually created something with much more universal depth and insight.
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Marietta Brill So interesting, I never knew that. This is one f my favorite books of poetry of all time and got the SENSE of those voices but not specifically. Adds dimension.

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