American poet Louise Glück wins Nobel Prize in Literature 2020

American poet Louise Glück has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2020 “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”. The award was announced on 8 October.

09 Oct 2020 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

She is the first American to win the prestigious award since Bob Dylan in 2016. Toni Morrison was the last American to receive the prize before him, winning in 1993.

Glück, the 16th woman to win the literature prize, has published 12 collections of poetry and several volumes of essays on poetry. According to Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee, her writing is characterised by a striving for clarity and focuses on themes of childhood and family relationships. He also emphasised that while autobiographical background was significant, she is not a confessional poet, comparing her to Emily Dickinson. Glück's work seeks the universal and she takes inspiration from myths and classical motifs, Olsson said.

Born in 1943, Glück has written 12 collections of poetry and two books of essays. Her most recent collection was 2014’s Faithful and Virtuous Night. Over a career spanning six decades, she has explored trauma, death and healing, in poems that scholars have argued are both confessional and not.

Glück has written about developing anorexia as a teenager, which she later said was the result of her efforts to assert independence from her mother, as well as the death of her older sister, which happened before Glück was born. While in therapy, she elected to enrol in poetry workshops over a traditional college education and began to develop her voice. She published her first collection, Firstborn in 1968.

She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1993 for her collection The Wild Iris. She was appointed the US poet laureate in 2003, and visited the White House to receive the National Humanities Medal from US president Barack Obama in 2016.