Study Guide

The Wild Iris Transformation

By Louise Glück

Transformation

At the end of my suffering
there was a door. (1-2)

Doors often represent transitions or decisions, and this door is associated with suffering. The phrase "at the end" can refer to space as well as time. Maybe the speaker is comparing suffering to a long tunnel (like the tunnel sensation of a near-death experience) that leads to a door. Or maybe the speaker is suggesting that people tend to reevaluate their lives after times of mental or emotional suffering.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth. (8-10)

Being buried alive is high on Shmoop's list of "Experiences We'd Just As Soon Avoid If At All Possible." But what if this terrible situation is just a temporary stage in a spiritual journey to life after death? Okay, we'll consider it, but we're still not happy about it. "Buried consciousness" also conveys a vivid image of psychological or emotional isolation or repression.

Then it was over: (11)

The hardest part of the process—the hard suffering—apparently has ended. But where will the next stage of the process take us? If this is a journey of spiritual transformation, physical death should give way to life in a new form. If this is a journey of emotional transformation, despair should give way to hope. We hope.

[…] whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice: […] (18-20)

Shmoop thinks "oblivion" is even more disconcerting than buried consciousness. Seems like oblivion would dissolve our individual identities, deconstructing us, atom by atom. Yowza. How could we recover from that? Yet, somehow, we are reconstructed, transformed into our true selves. And you know it's really you because nobody but you has your voice.

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater. (21-23)

The fountain image triggers a rush of relief and joy. But where has this journey actually taken us? The fountain remains mysterious; we have to take it on faith that we've come to the right place. Notice the "deep blue shadows"? The words "deep" and "shadows" remind us of suffering, of "being buried in the dark earth." Yet those deep, dark experiences have been transformed into a radiant vision of azure seawater.

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