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The Wild Iris

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  6,146 ratings  ·  326 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, 63 pages
Published November 1st 1993 by Ecco (first published 1992)
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Average rating 4.21  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,146 ratings  ·  326 reviews

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Sep 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: wax-poetic
I had a Creative Writing teacher who asked me once if I would like anyone other than myself to read my poetry. When I answered, “Yes,” she advised me to make the suffering in my poems more universal and less personal.

Poetry is obviously personal, but she explained to me that, if I had a husband named “Dick” who beat me, it would be more effective to describe the blows from his hands or the degradation of the act or the hopelessness of my situation rather than to write specifically about “Dick”
David Schaafsma
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, grief
The Silver Lily
Louise Glück

The nights have grown cool again, like the nights
of early spring, and quiet again. Will
speech disturb you? We're
alone now; we have no reason for silence.

Can you see, over the garden—the full moon rises.
I won't see the next full moon.

In spring, when the moon rose, it meant
time was endless. Snowdrops
opened and closed, the clustered
seeds of the maples fell in pale drifts.
White over white, the moon rose over the birch tree.
And in the crook, where the tree divide
Dale Harcombe
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was so hard to pick a favorite poem from this book. I could have chosen almost any of them.


My great happiness
is the sound your voice makes
calling to me even in despair; my sorrow
that I cannot answer you
in speech you accept as mine.

You have no faith in your own language.
So you invest
authority in signs
you cannot read with any accuracy.

And yet your voice reaches me always.
And I answer constantly,
my anger passing
as winter passes. My tenderness
should be apparent to you
in the breeze of the su
Connie G
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Pulitzer Prize winner, "The Wild Iris", is a collection of 54 poems telling about changes in a garden. The poems are written in the voices of individual flowers, the poet-gardener, and the God of the garden. Themes of transformation, suffering, death, and rebirth are present in the poems. The flowers die in the autumn and are reborn in the spring, while the poet-gardener can be emotionally and spiritually reborn. God's voice comes in poems about the seasons, light and darkness, and water and dry ...more
Mar 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing

Do you know what I was, how I lived? You know
what despair is; then
winter should have meaning for you.

I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressing me. I didn't expect
to waken again, to feel
in damp earth my body
able to respond again, remembering
after so long how to open again
in the cold light
of earliest spring—

afraid, yes, but among you again
crying yes risk joy

in the raw wind of the new world.
Apr 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
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
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, favorites
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
Feb 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2010
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
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
Sep 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, louise-gluck
You want to know how I spend my time?
I walk the front lawn, pretending
to be weeding. You ought to know
I’m never weeding, on my knees, pulling
clumps of clover from the flower beds: in fact
I’m looking for courage, for some evidence
my life will change, though
it takes forever, checking
each clump for the symbolic
leaf, and soon the summer is ending, already
the leaves turning, always the sick trees
going first, the dying turning
brilliant yellow, while a few dark birds perform
their curfew of music. You w
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Second Review (May 2020): Louise Glück is the poet we need ITUT* (*in these unprecedented times = an acronym I’m really trying to get off the ground). These Edenic poems were the perfect thing. A balm. She even wrote about this time! See below.


What is my heart to you
that you must break it over and over
like a plantsman testing
his new species? Practice
on something else: how can I live
in colonies, as you prefer, if you impose
a quarantine of affliction, dividing me
from healthy members of
my ow
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
This is how you live when you have a cold heart.
As I do: in shadows, trailing over cool rock,
under the great maple trees.

The sun hardly touches me.
Sometimes I see it in early spring, rising very far away.
Then leaves grow over it, completely hiding it. I feel it
glinting through the leaves, erratic,
like someone hitting the side of a glass with a metal spoon.

Living things don't all require
light in the same degree. Some of us
make our own light: a silver leaf
like a path no one can use, a shallow
Helen McClory
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
poems with tender stems and aching hearts, constructed with keen-eyed care.
I had to stop dog-earing pages when I realised I was doing it for so many I'd have a book of folds.
Mar 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
An amazing collection of poetry. It takes us from winter to late summer via conversations between Louise and G-d. Using the imagery of creation and gardening, Glück brings up their feelings of abandonment by Hashem. It gives off a reconstructionist Jewish vibe which I really enjoyed. It inspired questions within me while also creating a soothing and beautiful atmosphere. One can read it on a long bus ride or a nice spring evening. I would recommend reading a poem a day as the year changes.
Kerri Anne
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite parts of poetry (collections & singular poems & lines themselves) is how it always finds me at precisely the moment I need to read it. This particular collection found me two days after a writing retreat that reminded me where my heart lives (namely, in so many pages written and read, words scribbled in various notebooks and still living in my head).

These poems are dark in a way I love poems to be (that is: honestly). They're light in the right places, too—like taking a deep
Uma Dwivedi
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
spring is a difficult season for me and so i am grateful for this book. there r moments where the abstraction feels iterative and overwhelming, but glück returns reliably to the garden. hope, god, resentment, despair, the terror of intimacy r among her concerns here and she is deft and muscular as she moves through them. at times, resigned, which i appreciate since poets so often fixate on the bright glorious moment of grand emotion (not to diminish that, but it is nice to see something quieter ...more
Muhammad Arqum
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Golden Lilly

As I perceive
i am dying now and know
will not speak again, will not survive the earth, be summoned
out of it again, not
a flower yet, a spine only, raw dirt
catching my ribs, I call you,
father and master: all around,
my companions are failing, thinking
you do not see. How
can they know you see
unless you save us?
in the summer twilight, are you
close enough to hear
your child's terror? or
are you not my father,
you who raised me?
Feb 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: holiday, poetry
The next installment in my quest for more poetry. Someone recommended Gluck to me years ago, but it’s taken me this long to read her. I am not sure that I grasp or love her yet. There’s passion in these poems, but it feels like the highly personal and focused passion of a nun; not that it’s anti- or asexual, but that it insists upon the numinous. Does that sound pretentious? It shouldn’t; most of the poems are quite explicitly earthbound, being either from the point of view of a plant or flower ...more
Simon Robs
Feb 08, 2018 rated it liked it

Do you know what I was, how I lived? You know
what despair is; then
winter should have meaning for you.

I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressing me. I didn't expect
to waken again, to feel
in damp earth my body
able to respond again, remembering
after so long how to open again
in the cold light
of earliest spring—

afraid, yes, but among you again
crying yes risk joy

in the raw wind of the new world.
This collection didn't resonate with me, and I found it alternately depressing and kind of boring. Not my favorite.
Jean Deffense
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A book i’ll forever hold close to my heart.
Gabrielle Schwabauer
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This collection messed me up. I never knew how much I wanted rage poetry about flowers.
Bryana Joy
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Last week, I read through the entirety of Louise Glück's, "The Wild Irises" on the floor of a bookstore where the coffee shop was full and no seats were to be had. Initially, I thought I would only read two or three poems from the beginning, just to have something to ponder. But this small collection of poetry is so captivating and Glück's aesthetic, theological, and existential struggles in some places so closely resembled my own, that I couldn't bear to leave it unfinished. In these poems, Glü ...more
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
Stephen Page
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An Iris Anthropomorphized
First published by Classic Book Club

Wild Iris by Louise Glück

Review supplied by Stephen Page

In The Wild Iris, Louise Glück allows flowers and other plants to speak. A gardener tending the plants also speaks, most often in prayer. Another voice, the deity prayed to by the gardener, speaks omnisciently. Glück’s garden, like life, brings unexpected joys and disappointments—the first sprouts, an early bloom, reoccurring weeds, a too-soon death. Although a reader may initial
Sep 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, ecco
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
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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

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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.” 41 likes
More quotes…