Monday, 12 March 2012

Louise Glück's 'Trillium': Voices from the Garden

Photo by and (c) 2007 Derek Ramsey. Used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

My last entry, about poet and gardener Stanley Kunitz, kept me thinking about gardens and flowers in poetry. I am a bit of an ignoramus when it comes botany in general, but I still love gardens and flowers. I just need someone to tell me what they are and how to look after them.

The trillium is a North American and Asian flower, found in temperate regions. In the Canadian province of Ontario, it is the province's official flower, and rarer varieties are protected. It is also the theme of one of Louise Glück's great poems, from her Pulitzer Prize-winning collection The Wild Iris.

TRILLIUM (Louise Glück)

The Wild Iris was my entry point into Louise Glück's work, as I am sure it has been for many people. Its poems speak with various voices - primarily those of the flowers, but also a gardener's voice, and a god's voice. The flowers speak like resurrected beings, or angels, or Wordsworthian children who have just been born.

At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

(from 'The Wild Iris')

The flowers describe pure, unmediated emotion, prescient but still innocent (although some of these emotions are dark). The language of the poems is clear, shining, needing no adornment.

I didn't even know I felt grief
until that word came, until I felt
rain streaming from me.

(from 'Trillium')

I'm definitely not expert enough to really comment on the differences between contemporary British and American poetry, but it seems to me that American poetry is (in general) far more willing to acknowledge the spiritual dimension, whether it is reacting against it, or celebrating it. The Wild Iris seems like a good example of this trend. It is a beautiful collection which I highly recommend.

1 comment:

  1. I was going to ask if that was your photo, but then I actually looked at the entry.. It's a very pretty flower in any case. I do not have 'la main verte' but I'm the same, I love flowers and gardens. Actually this post is quite topical: It's nearly Spring! I haven't read the poem quite yet, but now I want to.. ;) Oh, you've put me in a Summer-y mood! (Which would be nicer if I didn't have exams to study for, but it's still quite nice! ;)