American poet Louise Glück wins Nobel Prize in Literature

American poet Louise Glück wins Nobel Prize in Literature

NEW YORK — Louise Glück, an American poet long revered for the power, inventiveness and concision of her work and for her generosity to younger writers, has won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Nobel Committee on Thursday praised her as “candid and uncompromising” in granting a rare honour for a U.S. poet, with Wallace Stevens, Gwendolyn Brooks and Robert Frost among her predecessors who were bypassed. Glück spoke briefly to reporters waiting outside her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, saying she felt “agitation, joy, gratitude.”

Glück is a former U.S. poet laureate who had already received virtually every honour possible for a poet, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for “The Wild Iris,” the National Book Award in 2014 for “Faithful and Virtuous Night” and a National Humanities Medal in 2015. She is just the 16th woman to get the Nobel for literature since it was started in 1901.

“As one of our most celebrated American poets, we are thrilled that Louise Glück has received this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature,” Michael Jacobs, chairman of the Academy of American Poets, said in a statement. “Her poems, her overall body of work, and her utterly distinctive voice, present the human condition in memorable, breathtaking language.”

A native of New York City, descended in part from Hungarian Jews, Glück began reading poetry obsessively as a child, and by her early teens, she was already trying to have her work published. She struggled with anorexia as an adolescent, later saying that her eating disorder was less an expression of despair than of her desire to free the soul from the confines of her body, a theme that later arose in her work. The 77-year-old Glück has drawn from both personal experience and common history and mythology, whether revisiting the final section of “The Iliad” in “Penelope’s Song” or the abduction of Persephone in “Persephone’s Song,” in which she imagines Persephone “lying in the bed of Hades”:

“What is in her mind?/ Is she afraid? Has something/ blotted out the idea/ of mind?”

Anders Olson, chairman of the Nobel literature committee, said that “Glück seeks the universal, and in this she takes inspiration from myths and classical motifs, present in most of her works. The voices of Dido, Persephone and Eurydice –- the abandoned, the punished, the betrayed -– are masks for a self in transformation, as personal as it is universally valid.”

Glück’s poetry collections also include “Descending Figure,” “Ararat” and “The Triumph of Achilles,” winner of the National Book Critics Circle prize in 1985. It contains one of her most anthologized poems, the spare and despairing “Mock Orange,” in which a flowering shrub becomes the focus of a wider wail of anguish about sex and life: “How can I rest? / How can I be content / when there is still / that odor in the world?”

Glück’s legacy extends beyond her own work. Currently dividing her time between Yale University and Stanford University, she has called teaching one of the few pure joys of her life and has mentored many younger poets, including Claudia Rankine, author of the acclaimed “Citizen” and a current work, “Just Us.” Rankine, who studied under Glück at Williams College and is now a colleague at Yale, praised her as “incredible” teacher who valued the work above all.

“I remember the rigour, the wit and the patience that she showed me as a 19-year-old student trying to learn what there was to learn about getting inside the craft of writing poetry,” Rankine told The Associated Press on Thursday. You would hand in something and Louise would find the one line that worked. There was no place for the niceties of mediocrity, no false praise. When Louise speaks you believe her because she doesn’t hide inside of civility.”

Nobel laureates receive a 10 million kronor (more than $1.1 million) prize and are usually feted at a banquet in December, but the event was cancelled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, her longtime publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux announced that a new collection, “Winter Recipes from the Collective,” will come out next year. A previous work, the career retrospective “Poems 1962-2012,” jumped into the top 100 on Amazon.com’s bestseller list soon after her Nobel was reported.

Glück has enough experience winning awards to be skeptical of their importance. In a 2012 interview with the Academy of Achievement, she said that how she feels about a prize often depends on what she is working on at the time and whether she feels it’s worthy of praise. Glück also found that the rewards were temporary.

“Worldly honour makes existence in the world easier. It puts you in a position to have a good job. It means you can charge large fees to get on an airplane and perform,” she said. “But as an emblem of what I want — it is not capable of being had in my lifetime. I want to live after I die, in that ancient way. And there’s no way of knowing whether that will happen, and there will be no knowing, no matter how many blue ribbons have been plastered to my corpse.”

The literature prize comes after several years of controversy and scandal for the organization that awards the accolade. In 2018, the award was postponed after sex abuse allegations rocked the Swedish Academy, which names the Nobel literature committee, and sparked a mass exodus of members.

After the academy revamped itself to try to regain the trust of the Nobel Foundation, two laureates were named last year, with the 2018 prize going to Poland’s Olga Tokarczuk and the 2019 award to Austria’s Peter Handke., who has been called an apologist for Serbian war crimes. Albania, Bosnia and Turkey were among the countries boycotting the Nobel awards ceremony, and a member of the committee that nominates candidates for the literature prize resigned.

—-

Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London, David Keyton in Stockholm and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed.

—-

Read more stories about Nobel Prizes past and present by The Associated Press at https://www.apnews.com/NobelPrizes.

Hillel Italie, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal study details workers hit hardest by tax, benefit system for extra earnings

OTTAWA — Newly released documents show Finance Department officials calculated that workers… Continue reading

Cenovus. (The Canadian Press)
Cenovus to buy Husky Energy in deal valued at $23.6B, company will remain in Alberta

CALGARY — Cenovus Energy Inc. is buying Husky Energy Inc. in an… Continue reading

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 10:49… Continue reading

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
New Democrats turn minority into majority in British Columbia election

The New Democrats won a majority government in the British Columbia election… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

CALGARY — An inquiry into who is funding environmental opposition to the… Continue reading

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

The Cogeco logo is seen in Montreal on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

TORONTO — Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world… Continue reading

President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially facing higher taxes as the possibility of a contested U.S. presidential election appears to be fading, say investment experts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Patrick Semansky
Markets concerns about contested U.S. election fading with Biden lead in polls

TORONTO — Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially… Continue reading

(File photo)
Ontario records more than 1,000 new daily COVID-19 cases for first time

Ontario is reporting more than 1,000 mew daily cases of COVID-19 for… Continue reading

Pope Francis delivers his message during the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope names 13 new cardinals, includes US Archbishop Gregory

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Sunday named 13 new cardinals, including… Continue reading

Dave Mercer, President of Unifor Local 2121, overlooks Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Terra Nova floating production vessel that is anchored there on Friday, October 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
As N.L.’s oil industry sputters, the emotional toll of the cod moratorium looms large

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Dave Mercer spent the early 1990s roaming around… Continue reading

Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada's top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Canada’s top physician painted a bleak picture Saturday of the toll the… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is naming his shadow cabinet, including his predecessor Andrew Scheer as the party's infrastructure critic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were “late and confused” on COVID response

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says Alberta has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Most Read