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The Wild Iris

The Wild Iris

by Louise Glück

Language and Communication Theme

Why is the speaker in "The Wild Iris" so concerned about "voice"? Well, speaking is a creative act, a way to express our innermost thoughts and feelings. Speaking is also a social act that allows us to form relationships. Some people even speak to deities, through prayer. For these reasons, it makes sense to think of speech as emanating from a source of inner power. Like a great fountain, our thoughts and feelings well up from this deep source and rise into an outpouring of spoken words. Or at least they do in this poem.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. Why do you think the speaker of the poem lost the ability to speak? And why is the speaker's ability to speak restored? How do you know?
  2. Does the poem suggest that people fear being unable to speak? How so? Can you think of a time when you really wanted to say something but couldn't? How did that make you feel?
  3. Why do you think the speaker's voice comes from "the center" of the speaker's life? What does the phrase "center of my life" mean to you personally? Do you associate it with a specific place or particular relationships or a favorite activity? Is there a particular area of your body that you identify with the center of your life (such as brain, eyes, heart, or gut)?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In "The Wild Iris," the ability to speak represents an individual's personal identity. So if you take away a person's voice, you take away their very self.

"The Wild Iris" suggests that the inability to express one's true thoughts and feelings can cause psychological damage, leading to a kind of emotional death. Yikes.

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