Louise Glück- Winner of Nobel Prize – My Brush with Fame

  • Post published:10/09/2020
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Louise Glück (pronounced Glick) who taught poetry for twenty years at Williams College in

The Wild Iris – by Louise Glück

Williamstown Massachusetts was just awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.  As it happens, my husband went to work at Williams in 1990 in the computer systems part of the Development Office, and not long  after, I became the Librarian at the 1914 Library. That was a very special library filled with textbooks that financial aid students could use for their courses.

Working in a library, and doubly so in an academic library, is always an education. Besides getting to read the books that interested me on slow days, I was asked to interview some of the faculty and write for the Williams Alumni Review including Professor Heather Williams who had just been awarded the 1993 MacArthur Fellowship for study of bird biology. I was fascinated by her work.

Then I was happy to get the assignment to interview Professor Louise Glück, who had won several awards and had just won the Pulitzer Prize (1992) for her book The Wild Iris, her sixth book. She said that book was written in a heat of inspiration, which was unusual for her.

I was nervous about our meeting, but we had a congenial visit. I learned of her epilepsy, and also the pleasure she had that being driven back and forth to the college by one of her former students, instead of taking long bus rides.

She told me what she wanted her students “to learn to labor, because it is the habits of labor that encourage inspiration. You owe your material attentive effort. Once something is on paper you can use your mind, your conscious, your unconscious, everything you’ve got. I teach them to have patience and fortitude in the silent times – to tough it out.”

I bought my copy of The Wild Iris after meeting her. It has been read, and re-read for understanding and pleasure. There are three voices in these poems, Lawrence Rabb, a fellow poet and Williams professor said. “There are three voices that work back and forth, the voice of  god, the voices of the flowers, and the voices of the gardener. It is a lyrical and meditative work, rich and complicated.”

My brush with fame was brief, but I continue to get pleasure from the poems. I am a gardener.

Many of the plants have their say, beginning with the wild iris, Speech is also given to the snowdrops, the trillium and the violets and others. I am a gardener and one of my close companions is Witchgrass.


comes into the world unwelcome

calling disorder, disorder –


If you hate me so much

don’t bother to give me

a name; do you need

one more slur

in your language, another

way to blame

one tribe for everything –


as we both know,

if you worship

one god you only need

one enemy –


I’m not the enemy.

only a ruse to ignore

what you see happening

right here in  this bed,

a little paradigm

of failure. One of your precious flowers

dies here  almost every day

and you can’t rest until

you attack the cause, meaning


whatever is left, whatever

happens to be sturdier

than your personal passion –


It was not meant

to last forever in the real world.

but why admit that, when you can go on

doing what you always do,

mourning and laying blame,

always the two together.


I don’t need your praise

to survive. I was here first,

before you were here, before

you ever planted a garden.

And I’ll be here when only the sun and moon

are left, and the sea, and the wide field.

I will constitute the field.

Now, when I read this poem today, I not only feel the witchgrass’s righteousness, I feel what is waiting for our whole planet.

We send our congratulations to Louise Glück, poet and teacher.

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