The 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to American poet Louise Glück for “her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”
The prestigious accolade was announced by the Swedish Academy on Wednesday. This isn’t Glück’s first time being recognized for her poetic brilliance—she is a professor and writer-in-residence at Yale University, the 12th U.S. Poet Laureate, the winner of the 2014 National Book Award for her poetry collection Faithful and Virtuous Night, and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Wild Iris in 1993. In 2015, President Obama bestowed Glück with the National Humanities Medal, an award that “honors an individual or organization whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the human experience.”
In 1968 Glück, who is now 77 years old, premiered her first poetry collection titled Firstborn. She has gone on to author 11 more books. Her poetry incorporates emotionally heavy themes such as childhood trauma, failed relationships, and loss, often using history and Greek mythology as a vehicle of expression. Her 1999 collection Vita Nova, winner of Yale’s esteemed Bollingen Prize, examined the aftermath of a broken marriage through the lens of personal dreams and mythology.
In a statement earlier this morning Anders Olsson, Chairman of the Nobel Committee, praised Glück’s 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.”
Louise Glück is the only American woman to win a Nobel Prize in Literature since Toni Morrison won for Jazz in 1993; since 1901, only 16 of 117 recipients of this award have been women, including Glück. Winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature receive 1.1 million dollars in prize money.
Get a refresher on the 2018 and 2019 Nobel Prizes, awarded in the same year following a series of scandals surrounding the Swedish Academy. For more poetry recommendations, check out the 2020 National Book Awards Poetry finalists.