By Louise Gluck
The Wild Iris was written during a ten-week period in the summer of 1991. Louise Cluck's first four collections consistently returned to the natural world, to the classical and biblical narratives that arose to explain the phenomena of this world, to provide meaning and to console. Ararat, her fifth book, offered a substitution for the received: a demotic, particularized myth of contemporary family. Now in The Wild Iris, her most important and accomplished collection to date, ecstatic imagination supplants both empiricism and tradition, creating an impassioned polyphonic exchange among the god who "disclose[s]/virtually nothing", human beings who "leave/signs of feeling/everywhere", and a garden where "whatever/returns from oblivion returns/ to find a voice". The poems of this sequence see beyond mortality, the bitter discovery on which individuality depends. "To be one thing/is to be next to nothing", Cluck challenges the reader. "Is it enough/only to look inward?" A major poet redefines her task--its thematic obsessions, its stylistic signature--with each volume. Visionary, shrewd, intuitive--and at once cyclical and apocalyptic--The Wild Iris is not a repudiation but a confirmation, an audacious feat of psychic ventriloquism, a fiercely original record of the spirit's obsession with, and awe of, earth.