The Wild Iris
by Louise Glück
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was rather embarrassed when an American poet won the Nobel Prize and I had not read one of her books. Oh, I'd read a poem here or there, but that's all. This seems particularly embarrassing given my 2017 project of reading lots of authors often mentioned as possible Nobel recipients and the vast amount of poetry I've read in 2020.
The day she won I tried to order this book, but it was out-of-stock. I ordered two others and then a week or so later saw this one was available again and ordered it and it arrived but the first two I ordered still have not. I devoured the book this week, despite the six or seven other books I'm actively reading.
An early poem, "Snowdrops," seemed particularly appropriate this week when winter weather arrived and Covid numbers were spiking and you could feel a sense of dread developing. It begins:
"Do you know what I was, how I lived? You know
what despair is; then
winter should have meaning for you."
Reading, I was amazed at the ways her poems bear together intense darkness and radiant light. It's incredible her skill in completely holding both at the same time.
"If you would open your eyes
you would see me, you would see
the emptiness of heaven
mirrored on earth, the fields
vacant again, lifeless, covered with snow--
then white light
no longer disguised as matter."
I praise the Nobel committee's decision. She may have been the perfect author to draw attention to in this calamitous year.
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