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The Wild Iris


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About the Author

Louise Gl ck won the Pulitzer Prize for The Wild Iris in 1993. The author of eight books of poetry and one collection of essays, Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry, she has received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, the William Carlos Williams Award, and the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction. She was named the next U.S. poet laureate in August 2003. Her most recent book is The Seven Ages. Louise Gl ck teaches at Williams College and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


The award-winning author of The Triumph of Achilles looks here at relations between heaven and earth. More than half of the poems address an ``unreachable father,'' or are spoken in a voice meant to be his: ``Your souls should have been immense by now, / not what they are, / small talking things . . . This ambitious and original work consists of a series of ``matins,'' ``vespers,'' poems about flowers, and others about the seasons or times of day, carrying forward a dialogue between the human and divine. This is poetry of great beauty, where lamentation, doubt and praise show us a god who can blast or console, but who too often leaves us alone; Gluck, then, wishes to understand a world where peace ``rushes through me, / . . . like bright light through the bare tree.'' Only rarely (in ``The Doorway,'' for example) does the writing fail. But when dialogue melds with lyricism, the result is splendid. In ``Violets'' the speaker tells her ``dear / suffering master'': ``you / are no more lost / than we are, under / the hawthorn tree, the hawthorn holding / balanced trays of pearls.'' This important book has a powerful, muted strangeness. (June)

"There are a few living poets whose new poems one always feels eager to read. Louise Gluck ranks at the Cop of the list. Her writing's emotional and rhetorical intensity are beyond dispute. Not once in six books has she wavered from a formal seriousness, an unhurried sense of control and a starkness of expression that, like a scalpel, slices the mist dwelling between hope and pain."-- David Biespiel, "The Washington Post""Louise Gluck is a poet of strong and haunting presence. Her poems, published in a series of memorable books over the last twenty years, have achieved the unusual distinction of being neither "confessional" nor "Intellectual" in the usual senses of those words, which are often thought to represent two camps in the life of poetry.... What a strange book "The Wild Iris" is, appearing in this "fin-de-siecle, " written in the language of flowers. It Is a "lieder" cycle, with all the mournful cadences of that form. It wagers everything on the poetic energy remaining in the old troubadour image of the spring, the Biblical lilies of the field, natural resurrection."-- Helen Vendler, "The New Republic"

Gluck's sixth collection presents a series of spare, somber lyrics on the predicament of mortality. Through the ostensible medium of prayer--many of the poems are titled either ``Matins'' or ``Vespers''--she gives tongue to both voiceless creations (the short-lived snowdrops who say they are ``afraid, yes, but among you again/ crying yes risk joy/ in the raw wind of the new world'') and to Creator (``you are worth/ one life, no more than that''), as well as to her own ambivalence toward a higher power (``In what contempt do you hold us/ to believe only loss can impress/ your power on us''). Though the poems glimmer more than gleam, repeated readings unveil subtle reversals and shadings, evoking the ghostly consciousness that has always invested Gluck's best work.-- Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, N.Y.

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