The US poet and Nobel Prize winner for literature Louise Glück is dead. The head of the publishing house Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Jonathan Galassi, told the German Press Agency in New York on Friday. Glück was 80 years old. The cause of death was cancer, the New York Times reported, citing Richard Deming, a colleague of Glück's at the English department at the elite Yale University.
In 2020, Glück was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature - a surprise to many at the time; experts had not put her name on the list beforehand. The Swedish Academy justified the selection with the "unmistakable poetic voice" with which happiness makes "individual existence universal with austere beauty." Glück's voice is "sincere, uncompromising and signals that this poet wants to be understood. But it is also a voice full of humor and biting insight," the statement said. The German literary critic Denis Scheck commented on the Academy's decision at the time as "a surprise, but not a bad one."
“First I panicked, then I thought I was hallucinating,” said Glück in one of her first reactions to the award. “Afterwards I felt incredibly honored.” She considered using the prize money to buy a house in the US state of Vermont - at the same time, the poet, who was extremely reluctant to be in the spotlight, also expressed concern that her everyday life would change as a result of the prize.
Childhood on Long Island
Glück was born in New York in 1943 and grew up in Long Island as the daughter of an entrepreneur and a housewife. Her paternal grandparents were Jews who immigrated from Hungary. As a child, Glück suffered from eating disorders and psychotherapy was an important part of her life for a long time.
She wrote poems as a girl. After her debut "Firstborn" (1968), she published numerous other volumes of poetry as well as several books of essays about poetry. Four of her works have been published in German by Luchterhand-Verlag: “Wilde Iris”, “Averno”, “Winter Recipes from the Collective” and “Loyalty and Noble Night”.
"I was a lonely child," said Glück in one of her rare interviews. "My interactions with the world as a social creature were unnatural, forced, and I was happiest when I was reading." After school she attended Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University in New York. Glück, who was married twice and had a son, later taught at various universities, most recently at the elite Yale University.
Lots of awards
Despite her rejection of the spotlight, even before the Nobel Prize, Glück's public accolades had been piling up: Official Poet Laureate of the Library of Congress in Washington, Guggenheim Fellowships, Pulitzer Prize, and National Book Award were among them.
Glück's texts are almost always about emotions and thoughts - about loneliness, family relationships, love, despair, divorce and death - often interspersed with classic ancient myths and legends. The poet's specialty is "the very thing that only lyric poetry can create, and that is among the most intimate, non-public things that words can create," the New York Times once wrote. "To imitate the very special music of thoughts."