From ‘All Hallows,’ a dark poem inspired by Halloween, to ‘The Wild Iris,’ a lyrical piece told from the perspective of a flower, these poems are sure to inspire any reader. Louise Glück’s poems are long-lasting and contain elements that are going to appeal to a wide variety of audiences.
Louise Glück’s Best Poems
‘All Hallows’ was published in Louise Glück’s first book of poems, The House on Marshland. The poem explores the feelings associated with Halloween and the day that follows all hallows. The poet uses engaging language throughout this piece to paint a dark landscape and convey a lonely tone. She uses an extended metaphor, comparing a barren field to a mother’s barren womb. Here are a few lines from the poem:
Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
sleep in their blue yoke,
the fields having been
picked clean, the sheaves
This poem was written by Louise Glück in 1996 and included in the poet’s collection Meadowlands. The poem includes feminist themes common to the poet’s work in general. It is based on the myth of Circe, a sorceress who features in Homer’s Odyssey. The poet spends the entire poem in Circe’s perspective, a technique that truly expands the original story. Here are the first lines:
I never turned anyone into a pig.
Some people are pigs; I make them
Look like pigs.
Gretel in Darkness
‘Gretel in Darkness’ is an incredibly creative poem. It was first published in her collection The House on the Marshland in 1975 and is inspired by the classic story of “Hansel and Gretel.” Through the perspective of Gretel, the poet explores what it’s like to be ignored and controlled by men. It speaks on themes of misogyny and trauma in women’s lives. Here are a few lines from the poem:
This is the world we wanted.
All who would have seen us dead
are dead. I hear the witch’s cry
break in the moonlight through a sheet
of sugar: God rewards.
Her tongue shrivels into gas . . .
This poem is dedicated to his deciduous shrub that’s native to southern Europe. This plant resembles orange blossoms, a fact that the poet uses to her advantage. The plant comes to symbolize the general disappointment that the speaker feels in life. The speaker suggests that in her experience, the world is making a mockery of her and the life she wants to lead. Here are the first lines of the poem:
It is not the moon, I tell you.
It is these flowers
lighting the yard.
I hate them.
Early December in Croton-on-Hudson
‘Early December in Croton-on-Hudson’ is a short poem that depicts the winter in Croton-on-Hudson. The speaker describes the ice, the “blown gravel clicking,” and the “Bone- / pale” color of the snow. The poem is filled with images of the winter season as Louise Glück could only imagine them. Here are the closing lines:
Christmas presents when the tire blew
Last year. Above the dead valves pines pared
Down by a storm stood, limbs bared . . .
I want you.
‘October’ describes the classic changes in the natural world during the month of October. As autumn begins, the earth takes a new appearance. The poet uses examples of personification and beautiful examples of imagery throughout. The poem also contains questions and answers that should inspire the reader to think deeper about the season. Here are the first few lines:
Is it winter again, is it cold again,
didn’t Frank just slip on the ice,
didn’t he heal, weren’t the spring seeds planted
didn’t the night end,
didn’t the melting ice
flood the narrow gutters
The Drowned Children
‘The Drowned Children’ is a tragic poem that speaks on the death of a group of children who were drowned in a pond. The speaker is a somewhat detached and cold narrator who overlooks the incident. They emphasize the fact that this is only one small tragedy happening in a corner of the world. It does not have a broader influence on the way the rest of the world acts. Here are a few lines:
You see, they have no judgment.
So it is natural that they should drown,
first the ice taking them in
and then, all winter, their wool scarves
floating behind them as they sink
until at last they are quiet.
‘Anniversary’ is an interesting poem that starts off with two surprising opening lines: “I said you could snuggle. That doesn’t mean / your cold feet all over my dick.” The poem progresses with the speaker, a man, making demands of his partner. He blames her for everything happening and critiques her every action. Here are a few more lines:
But I didn’t want your hand there.
I wanted your hand here.
You should pay attention to my feet.
You should picture them
The Wild Iris
This creative poem is told from the perspective of a flower. It comprehends death differently than humanity does and shares its understanding. The poem also gives it a title to her 1992 collection. The piece delves into themes of the human soul, rebirth, mortality, and even the idea of interconnectivity between all living forms. Here are a few lines:
Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.
It is terrible to survive
‘Dawn’ is a three-part form that is separated into different sections of stanzas and individual lines. It begins with a description of a child waking up in a dark room speaking a “language nobody understands in the least.” The poet speaks of time passing in a dream, people waking, sleeping, and separating for the day, each in a different section of the poem. The dream-like depiction of these interactions is quite beautiful. Here are the final lines:
You get home, that’s when you notice the mold.
Too late, in other words.
As though the sun blinded you for a moment.
Commonly, her best-known piece is ‘The Wild Iris.’ This is followed by pieces like ‘Mock Orange’ and ‘Afterward,’ although it is going to be up to individual readers as to which poem is truly her best. All demonstrate a unique understanding of how language flows and an ability to convey heart-wrenching and memorable images.
Louise Glück is an American poet and winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature. She’s also won the Pulitzer Prize and was named the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2003 to 2004.
No, Louise Glück is not specifically categorized as a confessional poet. But, there are elements of the confessional movement within her work. For example, very personal-feeling narratives such as that in ‘Anniversary.’
The Nobel Prize committee stated that she won the award because of her “mistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”