All poets want to fly and be free. Some poets find it freeing to exercise their creativity within the secure boundaries of a formal metrical structure or rhyme scheme. But other poets—and Louise Glück is one of them—prefer to reinvent the wheel, using free verse to make up the poem's structure as they go along.
A Part of a Whole
"The Wild Iris" is actually one poem in a book-length collection that forms a narrative sequence. We're analyzing this poem separately from the sequence, but you're in for an additional treat if you read the whole collection. While some of the poems focus specifically on flowers, other poems seem to reveal the thoughts of a human gardener on the one hand, and a kind of Divine Gardener on the other.
Stanzas and White Space
"The Wild Iris" has seven stanzas of varying lengths. The logical connections between stanzas are often mysterious, so during the white spaces, you have to give some thought to the meanings that are emerging. "I do not think that more information always makes a richer poem," says Glück. "I am attracted to ellipsis, to the unsaid, to suggestion, to eloquent, deliberate silence. The unsaid, for me, exerts great power" (source). Yep, those frequent white spaces aren't just there to ease the eye. They're meant to give you a chance to ponder in silence, to connect the poem's ideas.
The poetic technique of enjambment—continuing one line of poetry into the next without punctuation—is another way that Glück draws attention to what she's not saying.
Consider, for example, the way that lines 3 and 17 end with white space after the word "death" and the phrase "the other world," dropping you off a cliff into the Great Beyond without even the safety harness of a single period or comma.
Though the poem has no set meter, Glück uses rhythm to enhance the simple vocabulary and conversational quality of the poem (see "Calling Card"). Repeated accents on single-syllable words hammer home important points. This technique is evident in lines such as, "Hear me out: that which you call death" and "I tell you I could speak again." In formal meter, two accents in a row are called a spondee. If "The Wild Iris" used a formal metrical structure, each of the two lines just quoted would contain triple spondees. That's one way to get our attention, that's for sure.