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The Wild Iris

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  7,841 ratings  ·  543 reviews
Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

From Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Louise Glück, a stunningly beautiful collection of poems that encompasses the natural, human, and spiritual realms

Bound together by the universal themes of time and mortality and with clarity and sureness of craft, Louise Glück's poetry questions, explores, and finally celebrates the ordeal of being al
Paperback, 63 pages
Published November 1st 1993 by Ecco (first published 1992)
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  7,841 ratings  ·  543 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”
Glenn Russell

In response to Louise Glück receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature this year, someone wrote:

"Giving the Nobel to a poet is like giving an Oscar to a street mime."

Is the spirit of this statement in any way justified? In other words, is it fair to give the award to a poet when novelists like Isabel Allende, Milan Kundera and Martin Amis have inspired and enriched the lives of, if not millions, then certainly many hundreds of thousands of readers across the globe?

The statement got me thinking. I
Dave Schaafsma
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, grief
Congratulations to Louise Glück, awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, 2020

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 whit
As someone who loves poetry, I was elated when the news came that Louise Glück received the Nobel Prize this year. I instantly thought of her collection The Wild Iris that I read too long ago to remember individual poems but do recall having a sense of wonder and amazement. It didn’t take me long to reach for my shelves and re-read it.

The poems are interconnected and spoken in the first person by three kinds of speakers: the poet-gardener, the flowers/nature, and the unnamed deity (it’s left t
Sep 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: louise-gluck, poetry
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
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
This collection, the sixth to be published by the 2020 Nobel Laureate, also won her the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1993, and as a result this is I think easily her best known collection.

It is also I think possibly the most accessible for a non-poetry fan, provided you understand the basic structure of the collection – which is really a free verse/dialogue novella and one designed to be read as a whole and I think in a single sitting.

My suggestion would in fact be to read the collection once,
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
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
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
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.
Matthew Mousseau
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 isn
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
Adriana Scarpin
Oct 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Retreating Light

You were always very young children,
always waiting for a story.
And I’d been through it all too many times;
I was tired of telling stories.
So I gave you the pencil and paper.
I gave you pens made of reeds
I had gathered myself, afternoons in the dense meadows.
I told you, write your own story.

After all those years of listening
I thought you’d know
what a story was.

All you could do was weep.
You wanted everything told to you
and nothing thought through yourselves.

Then I realized you couldn
Sidharth Vardhan
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I should really like to know what poets she read growing up to know whatever gave her the idea of using mythology that way.
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
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful! Well deserved Nobel prize winner!
Nadine Jones
Dec 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Glück is clever, and she uses garden imagery that I appreciate, but she’s not fun, and she’s definitely not easy. She’s cold and remote and I don’t always understand what the poem is saying. I’m never quite sure who “you” or “I” is - is it God? her ex? the reader? I also didn't understand why so many of the poems were titled "Matins" and "Vespers" - perhaps if I were a practicing Catholic, I would get it?

A lot of the poems seem to be about God, and they seem angry with God. Glück is like if Sylv
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
Mattea Gernentz
Nov 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Look at her, touching his cheek / to make a truce, her fingers / cool with spring rain; / in thin grass, bursts of purple crocuses— / even here, at the beginning of love, / her hand leaving his face makes / an image of departure / and they think / they are free to overlook / this sadness" (17).

A tenderness that would not tire. Something healing. This collection of poems is utterly beautiful, and the timing in me reading it now is absolutely divine. I went on a walk earlier today in the woods, a
Gaurav Andreas
Oct 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have a rather contentious relationship with poetry. A poet can write a few individual masterpieces over a long career, but a collection in its entirety can't be a masterpiece. At least, that's how it seems to me. The next best thing is to compose thematic strength consistancy throughout a collection. The Wild Iris is one of the best collections in that sense, though I admit that I've read very little poetry.

I read somewhere that Louise Gluck writes for everyone. Whether its lyrical beauty, emo
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
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.
Sep 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: the-poetry-man
I'm saddened that this is Glück's biggest hit to date because it's also her most generic, her least personal, its sum amounting to the kind of syrupy, flower-heavy stuff that appears on pastel posters in the offices of dentists and guidance counselors. ...more
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-i-own, poetry
This collection didn't resonate with me, and I found it alternately depressing and kind of boring. Not my favorite. ...more
Miguel Alves
Feb 19, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021
There’s a series of poems here called Matins where she talks to God in her prayers, and at first, she addresses him somewhat bitterly as if talking to a distant, abstract father figure, or an inhuman entity with which communication is impossible. But in one Matins poem she finally makes peace with God, and here she addresses him with this kind of consolation, she calls him a “friend, a dear trembling partner”, and asks something akin to “are You as awed by existence as we are, and as confounded ...more
Mert Moralı
Feb 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
Not sure why it reminds me of "Interstellar" by Christopher Nolan. Still, one probable cause could be the fact that the poetic nature of both the movie and its soundtrack bears a striking similarity to the profoundly vivid imagery of Glück's poetry. I felt an almost identical "tingle in my spine" (with Nabokov's remarkable description) which surrounded me when watching the movie and reading The Wild Iris. A cold, damp, otherworldly sensation.


"I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressi
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.
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, recommended, 2021
I just happened to finish these poems in the thirty minutes between golden sunlight and blue evening which, given the arc of the narrative told through this collection, could not have been more perfect in its timing.
Matthew Metzdorf
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This poetry book feels like the dark side of Mary Oliver. It is beautiful and lush with the living natural world, almost every poem referring to one or several trees or flowers. But it is also full of sorrow, doubt, mourning, or anger towards an unidentified you. Sometimes the you feels like it's God, sometimes a departed lover, sometimes a father, a sibling, a relative. And sometimes the "you" feels like the reader intruding on the speaker's loneliness. This is a book I'll be thinking about a l ...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

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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.” 54 likes
More quotes…