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On Glück’s Poetry: A General Observation

Helen Vendler

[Vendler’s comments occur in the opening paragraphs of a review of Glück’s The Wild Iris, a book-length sequence set in a garden in which Glück imagines three kinds of speech: individual flowers who speak to a gardener-poet, a gardener-poet who is sharply aware of her own aging, and the god of the garden whose larger overview permits a detachment and an irony that neither the gardener-poet nor the flowers can easily attain.]

… For a long time, Glück refused both the autobiographical and the discursive, in favor of a presentation that some called mythical, some mystical.

The voice in the poems was entirely self-possessed, but it was not possessed by self in a journalistic way> It told tales, rather, of an archetypal man and woman in a garden, of Daphne and Apollo, of mysteriously significant animal visitations. Yet behind these stories there hovered a psychology of the author that lingered, half-seen, in the poems. Glück’s language revived the possibilities of high assertion, assertion as from the Delphic tripod. The words of the assertions, though, were often humble, plain, suual; it was their hierarchic and unearthly tone that distinguished them. It was not a voice of social prophecy but of spiritual prophecy – a tone that not many women had the courage to claim.

Helen Vendler, "Flower Power: Louise Glück’s The Wild Iris," The New Republic, May 24, 1993, 35. Copyright 1993 by Helen Vendler .

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