According to AP, the Nobel Committee praised her as “candid and uncompromising” in granting a rare honor for a US 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 US poet laureate who had already received virtually every honor 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 Prize for Literature since it was started in 1901, AP reported.
“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.”
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.
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.
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 canceled 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 honor 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 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.