Louise Glück, a Nobel winner whose poems have abundant intellect and deep feeling

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Friday, May 24, 2024

Louise Glück, a Nobel winner whose poems have abundant intellect and deep feeling
The home of American poet Louise Gluck, a professor at Yale University, who won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature, is seen in Cambridge, Massachusetts on October 8, 2020. Nature's simple beauty and a child's experience of the world, coupled with the bold storylines of mythology, inform the work that won this year's Nobel literature prize for Louise Gluck, a pre-eminent voice in modern American poetry with a career spanning more than five decades. Joseph Prezioso / AFP.

by Dwight Garner

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- When Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1976, he commented: “The child in me is delighted. The adult in me is skeptical.” Bellow saw a “secret humiliation” in the fact that “some of the very great writers of the century didn’t get it.”

Louise Glück, who won the prize on Thursday, has long been skeptical of praise as well. In a 2009 interview, she said: “When I’m told I have a large readership, I think, ‘Oh great, I’m going to turn out to be Longfellow’: someone easy to understand, easy to like, the kind of diluted experience available to many. And I don’t want to be Longfellow. Sorry, Henry, but I don’t. To the degree that I apprehend acclaim, I think, ‘Ah, it’s a flaw in the work.’”

Glück — her surname rhymes with “click,” not “cluck” — is not the new Longfellow. Yet it’s part of her greatness that her poems are relatively easy of access while impossible to utterly get to the bottom of. They have echoing meanings; you can tangle with them for a very long time.

I have argued, in these pages, that her 1990 book, “Ararat,” is the most brutal and sorrow-filled book of poetry published in the last 30 years. (It’s contained in her collection “Poems: 1962-2012.”) It’s confessional and a bit wild, I wrote, comparing it to Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks.”

One of the things to love about Glück’s poetry is that, while her work contains many emotional registers, she is not afraid to be cruel — she confronts the monsters in herself, and in others, not with resignation and therapeutic digression but with artery-nicking knives.

The poet Kay Ryan, in her terrific new book of essays, “Synthesizing Gravity,” writes: “I think it’s good to admit what a wolfish thing art is; I trust writers who know they aren’t nice.” Glück’s work is replete with not-niceness. You would not, you sense, want her as an enemy.

As I write this, I have my copy of “Poems: 1962-2012” splayed out beside me on my writing table. It’s pretty well marked up. You can flip it open almost anywhere and find flying shards of dark intellect and beasty wit.

“You should take one of those chemicals,/maybe you’d write more” is a characteristic put-down. So is: “Your back is my favorite part of you,/the part furthest away from your mouth.” So is: “I expected better of two creatures/who were given minds.” Perhaps explaining such lines, she has also written: “You show respect by fighting./To let up insults the opponent.”

Glück’s free verse is exacting and taut and rhetorically organized. Thematically, the mirepoix is composed of family, childhood, love, sex, death, nature, animals. Her classical allusions are deft. She is a serious poet of the appetites. Even when she ostensibly writes about food, she is writing about 11 other things at the same moment. A poem called “Baskets” includes these lines:

I take my basket to the brazen market,

to the gathering place,

I ask you, how much beauty

can a person bear? It is

heavier than ugliness, even the burden

of emptiness is nothing beside it.

Crates of eggs, papaya, sacks of yellow lemons —

I am not a strong woman. It isn’t easy

to want so much, to walk

with such a heavy basket,

either bent reed, or willow.

Glück was born in New York City in 1943, and grew up on Long Island. Her father helped invent the X-Acto knife. That’s a cosmically sublime detail; no other poet slices with such accuracy and deadly intent.

She attended Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University, but took no degree. She was United States poet laureate in 2003 and 2004. She has won most of this country’s major poetry prizes.

When Glück was young, she suffered from anorexia nervosa. She doesn’t address this subject often, or directly, in her work. But here is a section of her poem “Dedication to Hunger”:

It begins quietly

in certain female children:

the fear of death, taking as its form

dedication to hunger,

because a woman’s body

is a grave; it will accept


She has become a profound and witty poet about growing old. In “Averno,” she writes about the speaker’s children:

I know what they say when I’m out of the room.

Should I be seeing someone, should I be taking

one of the new drugs for depression.

I can hear them, in whispers, planning how to divide the cost.

And I want to scream out

you’re all of you living in a dream.

Bad enough, they think, to watch me falling apart.

Bad enough without this lecturing they get these days

as though I had any right to this new information.

Well, they have the same right.

They’re living in a dream, and I’m preparing to be a ghost.

In another poem, she asks, “Why love what you will lose?” She answers her own question: “There is nothing else to love.”

Helen Vendler, writing in The New Republic, said that Glück’s poems “have achieved the unusual distinction of being neither ‘confessional’ nor ‘intellectual’ in the usual senses of those words.”

It’s Glück’s abundant intellect, and deep feeling, that keeps pulling you back to her poems. Commenting on the poor choices the Swedish Academy has made in the past, Gore Vidal once advised to never underestimate Scandinavian wit.

In the case of Louise Glück, the academy gets one exactly right.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

Today's News

October 11, 2020

They took $645 million in valuables. Then they took a taxi.

Fabergé family archive bequeathed and handed to the Moscow Kremlin Museums

At a reduced Frieze Week, a focus on Black art

Return looted art to former colonies, Dutch committee tells government

The Helmut Newton Foundation opens 'America 1970s/80s: Hofer, Metzner, Meyerowitz, Newton'

New book offers an original and vivid portrait of David Hockney

Hermann Historica to offer works of art & antiquities in the 83rd Auction

Jonah Freeman & Justin Lowe present COLONY SOUND at ARoS Aarhus Art Museum

First ever copy of The Who's 1965 My Generation album to go up for auction

A famed horror director mines Japan's real-life atrocities

Banksy bonanza at Bonhams

Kapwani Kiwanga presents a site-specific installation at Haus der Kunst

Phillips partners with Hall Art Foundation to offer works to benefit the Dreyfoos School of the Arts

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac opens an exhibition of works by Yan Pei-Ming

Big gems cap Heritage's $7.36 million fall jewelry auction

Christie's to offer a selection of works from a beautiful property in the heart of Seville

Louise Glück, a Nobel winner whose poems have abundant intellect and deep feeling

A YouTuber hangs his own shingle with an auction website

MacDougall's auction of Russian art features 200 lots ranging from icons to contemporary art

Burchard Galleries offers lifelong collections of important treasures

Newly commissioned project from St. Louis artist brings Augmented Reality to Laumeier Sculpture Park

Gene Cernan's notes for his speech delivered during his final moonwalk of Apollo 17 up for auction

Fiona Banner and Greenpeace complete underwater barrier to trawling with installation at sea

Exhibition of works by Philippe Favier opens at the Art and Archaeology Museum of Valence

Want To Add Gucci Sunglasses For Men Into Your Collection? Here Are 5 Tips

Art Quotes from Famous Artists for Happy Life and Healing

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

sa gaming free credit
Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful