The Marginalian
The Marginalian

The Wild Iris: Nobel Laureate Louise Glück on the Door at the End of Your Suffering

The Wild Iris: Nobel Laureate Louise Glück on the Door at the End of Your Suffering

A handful of times a lifetime, if you are lucky, an experience opens a trapdoor in your psyche with its almost unbearable beauty and strangeness, its discomposing unlikeness to anything you have known before. Down, down you go into the depths of the unconscious, dark and fertile with the terror and longing that make for suffering, the surrender that makes for the end of suffering, not in resignation but in faith. It is then that the still, small voice of the soul begins to sing; it is then that the trapdoor becomes a portal into a life larger, truer, and more possible — a kind of rebirth.

Nobel laureate Louise Glück (April 22, 1943–October 13, 2023) captures the essence of such experiences, the way they sober us to being mortal and to being alive, with an image of piercing originality in the title poem of her 1992 collection The Wild Iris (public library).

by Louise Glück

At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

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

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure sea water.

Couple with Ursula K. Le Guin on suffering and getting to the other side of pain, then revisit Glück’s love poem to life at the horizon of death.

Published April 29, 2024




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