Louise Glück, part of Creative Writing Program, wins Nobel Prize

U.S. poet LOUISE GLÜCK, a visiting professor in Stanford’s Creative Writing Program, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. The Nobel committee noted her “unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”

U.S. poet Louise Glück, a visiting professor in Stanford’s Creative Writing Program, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. (Image Credit: Katherine Wolkoff)

Glück, who is an adjunct professor of English at Yale, is the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature in 27 years since Toni Morrison in 1993.

Known for her celebrated poetry collections that employ evocative and lyrically graceful language to explore personal experiences such as family relationships and aging, Glück won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for The Wild Iris and was the U.S. Poet Laureate in 2003–04. She received the 2014 National Book Award for her most recent collection of poems, Faithful and Virtuous Night, and in 2015 received the National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In an interview with the New York Times after learning of the award, Glück discussed her work: “I look for archetypal experience, and I assume that my struggles and joys are not unique. They feel unique as you experience them, but I’m not interested in making the spotlight fall on myself and my particular life, but instead on the struggles and joys of humans, who are born and then forced to exit.”

Louise Glück’s poems have been a private passion of mine for years,” said BLAKEY VERMEULE, the Albert Guérard Professor in Literature and chair of Stanford’s English Department. “Their strengths and weights and intensities draw from sources inside and outside her own experience, from dreams and visions and myths and archetypes. She is a devotional poet.”

Glück will be teaching the Stegner Poetry Workshop in Stanford’s Creative Writing Program during winter quarter.

“Stanford’s long association with the 2020 Nobel laureate is the product of a friendship between two of the world’s most celebrated writers: Louise Glück and the famed Irish poet EAVAN BOLAND, who directed the Creative Writing Program for 24 years, before her tragic death this past spring,” said PATRICK PHILLIPS, director of the program.

Last year, Glück was the William H. Bonsall Visiting Professor in the Humanities and served as the Mohr Visiting Poet in 2011–12 and then again from 2017 until 2020.

The visiting poet position brings Glück to Stanford to teach an advanced undergraduate course called The Occasions of Poetry. Phillips said, “One student described it to me as ‘the chance of a lifetime,’ given that it is taught by a Pulitzer Prize winner, U.S. Poet Laureate and now Nobel laureate in literature.”

Poets, including Stanford Stegner Fellows who have had the opportunity to work with her, noted Glück’s immense generosity of spirit to other poets.

“The stories one hears about her presence on campus are from our students,” Vermeule said. “Her care in teaching her craft is legendary. She respects young writers and gives them the benefit of her searching and close attention. We have been enormously fortunate to have her teaching in Creative Writing.”

This year’s 10 Stegner poetry fellows will get the chance to work with Glück during winter quarter 2021. “I know they will be thrilled and honored to talk about poems with the world’s newest Nobel-winning poet,” Phillips said. “The whole Creative Writing Program is celebrating this monumental recognition of Glück’s work.”