Louise Glück Named Poet Laureate
August 29, 2003
Louise Glück was named poet laureate of the United States on August 29, 2003. Born in New York City in 1943, Glück was educated at Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University, and published her first book of poetry, Firstborn, in 1968. She has since published nine more books of poetry and one volume of essays, Proofs and Theories (1994).
Glück's selection as poet laureate was hailed by fellow poets. David Lehman, editor of the Best American Poetry series, called her "a real intellect in poetry" and "someone of principle and integrity." Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, in announcing the appointment, commended her "strong, vivid, deep poetic voice." That strong voice has set Glück's work apart from that of other contemporary poets. Her poems are characterized by precise, evocative language, spare but powerful. In an editorial praising Glück's appointment, Andrew Johnston wrote that "her poems send you out into the world a little colder but wide awake."
In addition to exactness of language, Glück's poems are characterized by frequent classical allusions. In Meadowlands (1996), for example, she tells the story of a disintegrating late-20th-century marriage in parallel with snippets from the story of Odysseus and Penelope. In The Triumph of Achilles (1985), some poems deal directly with Greek tragedy, while others are, as one reviewer put it, "charged with [a] mythic overlay." In Averno (2006), she rewrites the legend of Persephone in eighteen linked poems.
In addition to the recognition of the poet laureate position, Glück has received numerous other awards honoring particular publications. Achilles won the National Book Critics Circle Award; Vita Nova (1999) won the Boston Book Review's Bingham Poetry Prize. The Wild Iris, considered her best work, won both a Pulitzer Prize and the Poetry Society of America's William Carlos Williams Award. A Village Life (2009) was shortlisted for the 2010 International Griffin Poetry Prize. Glück has also received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations and from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2003, she was announced as the new judge of the Yale Series of Younger Poets. In 2008, Glück was selected to receive the Wallace Stevens Award for mastery in the art of poetry.
Glück is Adjunct Professor of English and Rosencranz Writer in Residence at Yale University.
Sources:Boston Globe, August 29, 2003; New York Times, December 22, 1985, August 4, 1996, November 4, 2003; www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/82; www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/g_l/gluck/about.htm; www.yale.edu/english/profiles/gluck.html; www.amazon.com/gp/product/0374107424.