RIP: Louise Glück, Nobel Prize Winner “The Wild Iris” Passes at 80

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By Jill Brooke


Louise Glück, who often writes poems about our beloved flowers, has died of cancer at 80. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Of her 12 books, her most famous is called “The Wild Iris,” where there are three voices: those of flowers speaking to humans, humans speaking to God, and God speaking to humans through flowers.

As an avid gardener, Glück often used flowers as a guide to explain the human experience.

As one commentator wrote, “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 dryness. These elements lead to transformations–physical, emotional, and spiritual. Changes–time, aging, loss, our choices–can lead to feelings of despair, but also to new beginnings.”

I have to admit I didn’t know of her work until she won this prize and my friend told me about her connection to flowers as symbols for loss and love.

Here is an excerpt from one of her poems called “The Gold Lily.”

I 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?

Gosh, how did I not know about her work? She also won the 1993  Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

But these prizes do stir curiosity. Turns out that from 2003 to 2004, the New York-born poet was Poet Laureate of the United States.

In giving her this latest award in her stellar career, Glück was cited  “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”

She now is an adjunct professor and Rosenkranz Writer in Residence at Yale University and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Anyway worth checking out for your weekend fun.