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WMN Role Models: Louise Glück

The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature is a poet who captures universal themes of loneliness and family, with the apparent simplicity of her verses

By Francesca Parravicini

I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressing me. I didn’t expect
to waken again, to feel
in the damp earth my body
able to respond again, remembering
after so long how to open again
in the cold light
of earliest spring -

afraid, yes, but among you again
crying yes risk joy

in the raw wind of the new world.

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BREAKING NEWS The 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded to the American poet Louise Glück “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.” Louise Glück was born 1943 in New York and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Apart from her writing she is a professor of English at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. She made her debut in 1968 with ‘Firstborn’, and was soon acclaimed as one of the most prominent poets in American contemporary literature. She has received several prestigious awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize (1993) and the National Book Award (2014). Louise Glück has published twelve collections of poetry and some volumes of essays on poetry. All are characterized by a striving for clarity. Childhood and family life, the close relationship with parents and siblings, is a thematic that has remained central with her. In her poems, the self listens for what is left of its dreams and delusions, and nobody can be harder than she in confronting the illusions of the self. But even if Glück would never deny the significance of the autobiographical background, she is not to be regarded as a confessional poet. 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. With collections like ‘The Triumph of Achilles’ (1985) and ‘Ararat’ (1990) Glück found a growing audience in USA and abroad. In ‘Ararat’ three characteristics unite to subsequently recur in her writing: the topic of family life; austere intelligence; and a refined sense of composition that marks the book as a whole. Glück has also pointed out that in these poems she realized how to employ ordinary diction in her poetry. The deceptively natural tone is striking. We encounter almost brutally straightforward images of painful family relations. It is candid and uncompromising, with no trace of poetic ornament. For more information see link in bio. #NobelPrize #NobelPrize2020 #literature #poetry #poet

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These are definitely hectic days for the world of culture, but strange at the same time. In a Stockholm emptier than usual, due to the pandemic, Nobel Prizes are being given. In the Literature category triumphed by surprise the poetess Louise Glück (the sixteenth woman to win this prize), with this motivation: for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal. And reading the words from the poem Snowdrops that I wrote at the beginning, we are struck by this austere beauty, by an apparently simple image, taken from the world of nature, but at the same time it speaks of a sense of unexpected collective rebirth, a message of hope that seems to be created especially for this period, where we need lighter words, desperate but full of life.

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Louise Glück – awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature – is not only engaged by the errancies and shifting conditions of life, she is also a poet of radical change and rebirth, where the leap forward is made from a deep sense of loss. In one of her most lauded collections, ‘The Wild Iris’ (1992), for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, she describes the miraculous return of life after winter in the poem ‘Snowdrops’ (see picture). It should also be added that the decisive moment of change is often marked by humour and biting wit. The collection ‘Vita Nova’ (1999) concludes with the lines: “I thought my life was over and my heart was broken. / Then I moved to Cambridge.” The title alludes to Dante’s classic ‘La Vita Nuova’, celebrating the new life in the guise of his muse Beatrice. Celebrated in Glück is rather the loss of a love that has disintegrated. ‘Averno’ (2006) is a masterly collection, a visionary interpretation of the myth of Persephone’s descent into hell in the captivity of Hades, the god of death. The title comes from the crater west of Naples that was regarded by the ancient Romans as the entrance to the underworld. Another spectacular achievement is her latest collection, ‘Faithful and Virtuous Night’ (2014), for which Glück received the National Book Award. The reader is again struck by the presence of voice and Glück approaches the motif of death with remarkable grace and lightness. She writes oneiric, narrative poetry recalling memories and travels, only to hesitate and pause for new insights. The world is disenthralled, only to become magically present once again. For more information see link in bio. #NobelPrize #NobelPrize2020 #literature #poetry #poet

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Louise Glück was born in New York in 1943 in a Jewish family of Hungarian origin and grew up on Long Island. Two events mark her adolescence: the death of her sister, which occurred before she was born, and anorexia, a disease from which she begins to suffer during her adoscence, described as a distorted manifestation of a desire for control and that lead her to drop out of school and undergo psychoanalysis sessions for seven years. Always encouraged to write by her parents, lovers of art and literature, she studied at Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University. Today she teaches English Literature at Yale University. During her poetic career she published 12 collections of poems and various critical essays; among the most important prizes she won we mention the prestigious Pulitzer for the collection The Wild Iris in 1993, the title of Poet  Laureate in 2013, the National Book Award in 2014.

Louise Glück's poetry is like a garden. A garden where nature marks the life of humanity, where the cycles of birth and death are inevitable, but must be faced and lived despite everything, with the help of the power of art. There is a sense of darkness and an almost dreamy sadness, a kind of fallen world, yet there is almost a sense of lightness: issues such as loneliness, family relationships, divorce, existential despair, are told in a pure, almost colloquial language, easily accessible, but that at the same time contains a sense of mystery, of solemnity that make the poems intense, almost prophetic, they seem to come directly from the center of the self”, as critic Wendy Lesser notes. A style that seems to fit her into a line of introspective authors such as Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath.

A passionate connoisseur of classical mythology, she takes up myths and legends and reinterprets them in the contemporary key of a modern woman: the conflictual relationship between mother and daughter is central, divided in a difficult balance between the search for her own identity and the roots of the past, exemplified by the poems on the figure of Persephone, in the Averno collection.

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good things come in three so a third october poem i love ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #poetry #poetrycommunity #poetrylovers #poetryofinstagram #poetryisnotdead #poemoftheday #louiseglück

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Life captured by the word and its power, feminine and universal at the same time:

The world itself
false, a device to refute
perception - At that intersection

ornamental lights of the season.

I was young here. Riding
the subway with my small book
as thought to defend myself against

the same world:

you are not alone
the poem said,
in the dark tunnel.

A small extract from October.

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Congratulations to our 2010 recipient of the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry #LouiseGlück who has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature!

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