Helen Vendler: On Louise Glück

[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.


Title Helen Vendler: On Louise Glück Type of Content General Poet Criticism
Criticism Author Helen Vendler Criticism Target Louise Glück
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 02 Aug 2022
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Flower Power: Louise Glück’s The Wild Iris
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