Discover American Poet and Nobel Laureate Louise Gluck

At the end of my suffering / there was a door. —”The Wild Iris” by Louise Glück

Louise Glück has been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.” A prolific and celebrated poet, she is the first American woman to win the prize since Toni Morrison in 1993. Glück is also the author of 12 poetry collections and was previously awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and served as the United States Poet Laureate, 2003-2004. 

A biographical essay about poet Glück, with brief critical analysis of major works

from The Critical Survey of Poetry, 2nd ed. along with other articles can be accessed here via the Literary Reference Center database.

According to a New York Times article that includes a conversation with Gluck after she won the Nobel, she’s “revered by literary critics and her peers for her spare, direct and confessional verses.”

Livingston Public Library is proud to have these works of Gluck in its collection that can help you discover the unique voice of this great contemporary American poet.

American Originality : essays on poetry (2017)

In this luminous collection of essays Gluck discusses what it means to be an American poet while analyzing poets that interest her and introducing the first books of such poets as Dana Levin, Spencer Reece, and Richard Siken.

Faithful and Virtuous Night (2014)

Review from Library Journal magazine: 

In the poet’s latest collection, aging is a cerebral place where the poet remembers her childhood years and connects them to the present. The title poem is memoirlike, describing halcyon (and not so halcyon) days with an older brother and later with a younger sibling. Other pieces suggest that for the poet, adventures are in the past, including her experiences as a writer. The best poems here allude to the state of the soul-“How deep it goes, this soul,/ like a child in a department store,/ seeking its mother.” Gluck’s imagery is muted but remains strong.

The First Four Books of Poems (1995)

This volume collects the early work that established Gluck as one of America’s most original and important poets. Honored with the Pulitzer Prize for The Wild Iris, Gluck was celebrated early in her career for her fierce, austerely beautiful voice. In Firstborn, The House on Marshland Wand, Descending Figure, and The Triumph of Achilles, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, we see the conscious progression of a poet who speaks with blade-like accuracy and stirring depth.

Meadowlands (1996)

Review from Publisher’s Weekly magazine:

Glück’s seventh collection interleaves vignettes of the Odyssey and a distressed modern marriage. Grimly serious parables, amusing but disquieting spousal conversations and insightful commentaries written in the voice of Telemachus, Odysseus’s son, season the 46 poems. Assessing his parents’ lives, Telemachus observes, “heartbreaking, but also/ insane. Also/ very funny.” In “Anniversary,” Glück captures the particular cruelty made possible by intimacy: “Someone should teach you how to act in bed./ …Look what you did‘/ you made the cat move.” In another, the depths of marital alienation are captured by a woman who weeps, holding a bag of garbage in an unlit garage at midnight: “…is this the way the heart/ behaves when it grieves: it wants to be alone with the garbage?” Despite humor, there is little joy. Glück sees, in daily life as in Odysseus’s heroic one, the “unanswerable/ affliction of the human heart: how to divide/ the world’s beauty into acceptable/ and unacceptable loves.” 

A Village Life (2009)

Review from Booklist magazine:

In her eleventh collection, a work of organic coherence and symphonic intensity, Gluck fully enters the archetypal realm to conjure a timeless sense of life as manifested in a Mediterranean village seen through the eyes of men and women young and old. A fountain is a central meeting place and a symbol of life. The earth is alive as plants change shape and color, bats wing about, the sky empties and fills, and the villagers spiral from contentment to sorrow, passion to detachment. The village is a prison, a theater, a sanctuary. Life is bountiful, death is dominant. Glück’s rendering of the stages of human life, from animal innocence to the firing of the self to the slow banking down of age are breathtakingly exact and unsparing, yet gloriously mysterious.

The Wild Iris (1992)

Review from Library Journal magazine:

Gluck’s sixth collection presents a series of spare, somber lyrics on the predicament of mortality. Through the ostensible medium of prayer–many of the poems are titled either “Matins” or “Vespers”–she gives tongue to both voiceless creations (the short-lived snowdrops who say they are “afraid, yes, but among you again/ crying yes risk joy/ in the raw wind of the new world”) and to Creator (“you are worth/ one life, no more than that”), as well as to her own ambivalence toward a higher power (“In what contempt do you hold us/ to believe only loss can impress/ your power on us”).  Though the poems glimmer more than gleam, repeated readings unveil subtle reversals and shadings, evoking the ghostly consciousness that has always invested Gluck’s best work.

-Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian 

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