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Iris based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Today, reading the second of three parts, I got to the passage that seems to explain the naming of the title character:The eye looks through an emptiness to see. And that gap closes against too much lightAnd opens in the dark so wide it matches the void of vision with a void of space.What we see through is an emptiness. Through hers, Iris saw. . . . (58)Iris is an observer who, like the author, sees the world as filtered through the sensibilities of poets: Robinson Jeffers, whose poems she carries everywhere and reads over and over; the young poet-professor at the college (fairly obviously Murray State) in whose poetry course she was introduced to Jeffers, and herself. As an example of the first: ¿Her poet [Jeffers is called this throughout] always took the larger view, seeing in netted fish the death of cities, Believing poems cleansed humanity, at least somewhat.¿ As an example of the last: Iris sees the ocean with her own eyes, although she looks also with Jeffers¿s¿ the ocean that her poet said was a stone, sharp-edged, polished . . . changed color like the great hedgeapples in Kentucky that swept the roof.A cold, ferocious blue by winter solstice, then into summer, turning milkySapphire, and always under overcast the color of the cloud, or with a changeOf current¿pea-green or chick-pea yellow mixed with ash and pearl. Maybe these were wrong, maybeNever in a lifetime would she record the ocean¿s color for a chart of seasons.¿ (59-60)12/19/00¿I finished Iris. Jarman writes in long lines that must be emulation of Jeffers:Soon the sea around them would be the seasonal green, the dense eradication of space by flourishing growth. (7)Iris leaves her abusive husband and returns with her young daughter Ruth to her family in western Kentucky¿her mother, who is a fat drunk, her two brothers, and the man her mother brings home from the stateline roadhouses. Iris goes to the library and finds the young poet-professor who introduced her to Jeffers. They link up, briefly, but when her brothers are murdered and her mother seriously injured in a crime connected with the marijuana her brothers were growing, her poet-professor is spooked. Partly in fear of the killers coming back and partly because of the ideal California that reading Jeffers has formed in her mind, Iris takes her impaired mother and her child to the coast in part II of the poem. But she gets only to southern California where she meets a beach salvage salesman who takes them all in, and for twenty years she lives with him. Ruth grows up, graduates from high school, and marries; on the day of her wedding Iris searches for her wandering mother and finds her dead under a neighbor¿s magnolia tree.Iris decides it¿s time to leave and in part III she drives north, picking up a hitchhiker, Nora, who talks to herself and seems mildly demented but who is also seems to understand Iris¿s obsession with her poet. They arrive in Carmel late and Nora takes Iris to a secluded spot where they can park and sleep; the next morning Iris discovered it is Jeffers¿s house, now in a subdivision. Iris and Nora take the tour of the house and grounds, which ends in the tower.
Iris, a young woman in Kentucky, is obsessed with the poetry and life of Robinson Jeffers. When violence forces her to leave Kentucky, she drives her mother and daughter Ruth across the country to California in search of Jeffers' landscape. She is sidetracked for 20 years in Southern California until her daughter marries and her mother dies. She finally drives up the coast to Carmel, picking up, Nora, a homeless hitchhiker, on the way. Nora leads her to Jeffers' Tor. I haven't quite decided yet what I think of this poem, but the language captures the gritty realism of a hard-scrabble American life and counterpoints it against a vision of a romantic landscape."In college I got pregnant. I took an English class that studied Robinson Jeffers./ Nine girls and one shy boy, besides the teacher. I fell in love with Jeffers, with the teacher/ And, because he asked me questions after class, and always looked dazed/ When I responded--as if I were a prom queen or a picture in a magazine--/I fell for that shy boy. When I think back, I wonder why we studied Jeffers there,/ Along with others. He was the teacher's favorite. He made the place we lived seem insufficient."