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
(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.
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.