Louise Elisabeth Gluck, An introduction to the Nobel Laureate of 2020-Naheed Kausar

Louise Elisabeth Gluck is an American poet and an essayist born on April 22; 1943. She is the youngest Nobel Laureate of the year 2020 for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal. Gluck is recurrently described as an autobiographical poet on account of her major work based on human emotional intensity related to the subjects of myth, history and nature. Her voice resonates as a mediator of her personal experiences and the modern life. She bagged several literary awards, including Pulitzer Prize, National Humanities Medal, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, Bollingen Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature. From 2003 to 2004, she was Poet Laureate of United States. Currently she is an adjunct professor and Rosencrantz Writer in Residence at Yale University and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Her early life was spent in the city of New York near Long Island. During the time she was at the High school, she suffered from anorexia nervosa, but in the later years she overcame that illness. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and then the Columbia University but could not obtain a formal degree. She excelled as an author enjoying a career in academia and served there as a teacher of poetry at more than a few institutions. In her poetry she focuses enlightening the aspects of trauma, desire and nature. She through her poetry establishes her own unique and definable expressions of sadness and lonesome. Scholars and the critics pay a special focus on her employment of varied personas and the relationships in her poems to reach to some interesting evaluations and opinions to rank her work between autobiography and the classical myth.

Her works are available in English, Spanish, Swedish and German Languages. Her poetic collections in English include: Firstborn (1968), The House on Marshland (1975), The Garden (1976), Descending Figure (1980), The Triumph of Achilles (1985), Ararat (1990), The Wild Iris (1992), Meadowlands (1996), Vita Nova (1999), The Seven Ages(2001), October (2004), Averno (2006), A Village Life (2009), Poems 1962-2012 (2012), Faithful & Virtuous Night (2014), American Originality: Essays on Poetry (2017).

 Anders Olsson the Chairman of the Nobel Committee writes a detailed bibliographic note about Louise Gluck (on covering her profile, career, and works and also shares his expert opinion on her six collections of poems in specificity, i.e. The Triumph of Achilles (1985),Ararat (1990), The Wild Iris (1992), Vita Nova (1999), Averno (2006), and her latest collection Faithful & Virtuous Night (2014). While commenting on Ararat, Olsson declares that ‘there are three characteristics that unite to subsequently recur in her writing and these include the topic of family life, austere intelligence and a refined sense of composition which marks the book as a whole’. He further more adds that Gluck herself has also pointed out that in these poems she realized how to employ ordinary diction in her poetry. Anders Olsson further states that ‘the deceptively natural tone in the poems is striking, especially when we encounter almost brutally straightforward images of painful family relations, the tone in the poems is candid and uncompromising with no trace of poetic ornament’. In the same bibliographic note he later on shares the poem ‘Snowdrops’ from one of her most alluded collection The Wild Iris (1992), for which Gluck received the Pulitzer Prize too. This poem describes the phenomenal return of her towards life after winter:

I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressing me. I didn’t expect
to waken again, to feel
in 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.

Apart from the above opinioned note of the chairman of the Nobel Prize committee, Louise Gluck’s name got significantly captioned in the online top three stories of the news world, i.e., The Guardian and the New York Times. reports with their headline as ‘Louise Gluck wins Nobel Prize for Literature’. The Swedish Academy which oversees the award, describes that this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to the US poet Louise Gluck, who was recognized for her ‘unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal’. They added that Gluck was ‘surprised’ when she received their phone call. The Academy’s permanent secretary Mats Malm said that he had spoken to Gluck just before making the announcement, though the message came as a surprise, but it was a welcome message as far as to his best perception. Moreover in their report a well sized picture of Louise Gluck with the former president Barak Obama was also shared which described that in 2016 she received the National Humanities Medal from former US President Barak Obama. The news also detailed that she is the fourth woman to win the prize for literature since 2010, and was only the 16th.since the Nobel Prizes were first awarded in 1901.The news report mentioned that Bob Dylan in 2016 was the last American to win the award before Gluck. Her other awards received in the years in 1993, 2001, 2014 and 2015 were also highlighted in the report.

The Guardian covered the view of the Chair Nobel Prize Anders Olsson on Gluck’s works, a short interview of hers with Nobel Prize and the opinions and the comments of a few eminent writers on her achievement. The chairman avowed that Gluck’s voice is a ‘candid and uncompromising’ voice and is full of’ humor’ and ‘biting wit’, and that comparing her to Emily Dickinson  with her ‘severity and unwillingness to accept simple tenets of faith’. Talking in a short interview with Nobel Prize, regarding the prize sum she said, that the winnings of 10m Swedish kronor (L870, 000) would help her buy a home in Vermont, and more impotently she would be concerned with the preservation of daily life with the people she love…. The Guardian also shared some comments of Gluck’s fellow poets who all welcomed the pleasing news of her success and achievement as the Laureate of 2020. Claudia Rankin told that she was ‘so pleased’. Imtiaz Dharker shared his views on The Wild Iris a remarkable poetic collection of Louise by saying that, ‘there is n o easy comfort in it. (or in any of her work, when I went to find more of it).He also acknowledged that ‘Gluck offers instead is uncompromising clarity, especially about the slides of all living things towards death, And yet she often turns that awareness on a pin and tilts the poem to catch a different light’. Kate Clanchy urged that it was great to have a woman poet win the Nobel.

The New York Times published an appraisal penned by Dwight Garner having the title as Louise Cluck, a Nobel Winner Whose Poems Have Abundant Intellect and Deep Feeling. The author of the write up narrates the Laureate’s early life, her schooling and her father in it and then struggles to traces poet’s intellect and deep feeling through her different poems, for instance the poem named ‘ Dedication to Hunger’, is the reflection of the illness she had suffered at her high school period. The poem is not an often subject of the poet but it does describe the fear of death. Similarly another poem in ‘Averno’ she writes about speakers’ children which highlights her intellectual growth as a poet. Dwight refers another poem in his appraisal without naming the poem and mentioning its title that Gluck asks question like:

“Why love what you will lose?” and to which she herself replies by saying:

“There is nothing else to love” which proves her rationality and deep thought interventions in her poetry.

Naheed Kausar is a writer, translator and research scholar.Her translation of Molana Modoodi’s Urdu book Haqooq Azzoujain is about to publish in near future.She is currently enrolled in English department of University of Lahore.
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