We begin the week here on My Poetic Side with an article about the former US poet laureate Louise Glück, who has died at the age of 80.
Louise Glück Passes Away
The US poet Louise Glück has died at the age of 80. Her death was confirmed by her editor on Friday 13th October 2023.
In 2020, Glück was news because she was the first poet from the US to be awarded a Nobel Prize for literature since 1948 when it was awarded to TS Eliot. The judges praised her for “her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”.
During her lengthy and incredibly productive career that spanned 60 years, Glück published a considerable volume of poetry that was often a narrative for disillusion, trauma and longing, topics that she interspersed with some contentment and ecstasy. Her poems were often just a page or even shorter in length.
Glück often said that her work was influenced by Greek mythology, Shakespeare and TS Eliot. In addition to poetry, she was also the author of a number of essays and “Marigold and Rose”, a brief prose fable.
She was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1993, and in 2015 she was awarded a National Humanities Medal. She was also awarded a Bollingen Prize in 2001 for lifetime achievements and a 2014 National Book Award. From 2003 to 2004 she served as the US poet laureate.
Glück taught at a number of universities including Yale and Stanford and firmly believed that the experience of being in the classroom was in no way a distraction from her poetry, but rather something that helped her. The poet Claudia Rankine was one of her students whilst she was working at Williams College.
Raised in New York City, Glück was a descendent of Eastern European Jews. Her father assisted in the invention of the X-Acto knife, her mother a “maid-of-all-work”. She was the middle of three sisters. Her older sister, who she referred to in the poem Parados, died before she was born.
Ill health and anorexia during her formative years meant that she was too frail to become a full time student in college, so she sat in on lessons and found mentors amongst the poet-teachers who taught them. She credited the seven years of intensive psychoanalysis that she received during the period with helping her to write.
When she was in her mid-20s she was already publishing poems in a number of magazines. Her first book was published in 1968 but was followed by a significant period of writer’s block, and it wasn’t until the early 1970s when she was teaching that wrote her second book. This was published in 1975 and was widely considered to be her big breakthrough. The books that she wrote after this period were different and showed a degree of creative reinvention.
Glück was married and divorced twice and had just the one child, a son named Noah.