Our April 22nd New Yorker Birthday is Pulitzer Prize Winner and Poet Laureate Louise Glück
Louise Elisabeth Glück (born April 22, 1943) in New York City, is an American poet and essayist. One of the most prominent American poets of her generation, she has won many major literary awards in the United States, including the National Humanities Medal, Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Yale University’s Bollingen Prize, among others. Glück is often described as an autobiographical poet; her work is known for its emotional intensity and for frequently drawing on myth, history, or nature to meditate on personal experiences and modern life.
She attended Sarah Lawrence College, and from 1963 to 1965 she enrolled in poetry workshops at Columbia University's School of General Education, which offered programs for non-traditional students. While there, she studied with Léonie Adams and Stanley Kunitz. She has credited these teachers as significant mentors in her development as a poet.
In her work, Glück has focused on illuminating aspects of trauma, desire, and nature. In exploring these broad themes, her poetry has become known for its frank expressions of sadness and isolation. Scholars have also focused on her construction of poetic personas and the relationship, in her poems, between autobiography and classical myth. Glück is also noted for her poetry’s technical precision, sensitivity, and insight into loneliness, family relationships, divorce, and death, as well as what poet Rosanna Warren has called its “classicizing gestures” or frequent reworking of Greek and Roman myths such as Persephone and Demeter.
In 2003 Glück was named the 12th U.S. Poet Laureate. That same year, she was named the judge for the Yale Series of Younger Poets, a position she held until 2010. Her book of essays Proofs and Theories (1994) was awarded the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction. In addition to the Pulitzer and Bollingen Prizes, she has received many awards and honors for her work, including the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, a Sara Teasdale Memorial Prize, the MIT Anniversary Medal, and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, and from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2008, she was awarded the Wallace Stevens Award, and in 2015 she received the Gold Medal for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Louise Glück was born in New York City in 1943 and grew up on Long Island. Glück's paternal grandparents, Hungarian Jews, emigrated to the United States, where they eventually owned a grocery store in New York. Glück's father was the first member of his family born in the United States. He had an ambition to become a writer but went into business with his brother-in-law. Together, they achieved success when they invented the X-Acto Knife. Glück's mother was a graduate of Wellesley College. From an early age, Glück received from her parents an education in Greek mythology and classic stories such as the legend of Joan of Arc. She began to write poetry at an early age.
As a teenager, Glück developed anorexia nervosa, which became the defining challenge of her late teenage and young adult years. She has described the illness, in one essay, as the result of an effort to assert her independence from her mother. Elsewhere, she has connected her illness to the death of an elder sister, an event that occurred before she was born. During the fall of her senior year at George W. Hewlett High School, in Hewlett, New York, she began psychoanalytic treatment. A few months later, she was taken out of school in order to focus on her rehabilitation, although she still graduated in 1961. Of that decision, she has written, "I understood that at some point I was going to die. What I knew more vividly, more viscerally, was that I did not want to die”. She spent the next seven years in therapy, which she has credited with helping her to overcome the illness and teaching her how to think.
After leaving Columbia without a degree, Glück supported herself with secretarial work. She married Charles Hertz, Jr., in 1967. The marriage ended in divorce. In 1968, Glück published her first collection of poems, Firstborn, which received some positive critical attention. However, she then experienced a prolonged case of writer's block, which was only cured, she has claimed, after 1971, when she began to teach poetry at Goddard College in Vermont. The poems she wrote during this time were collected in her second book, The House on Marshland (1975), which many critics have regarded as her breakthrough work, signaling her "discovery of a distinctive voice".
Glück’s selected Poems 1962-2012 (2012) was published to great acclaim. While highlighting her work’s fierceness and “raking moral intensity,” in the words of New York Times reviewer Dwight Garner, the collection also allowed readers to see the arc of Glück’s formal and thematic development. According to Adam Plunkett, reviewing the collected poems in the New Republic, “Very few writers share her talent for turning water into blood. But what emerges from this new, comprehensive collection—spanning the entirety of her career—is a portrait of a poet who has issued forth a good deal of venom but is now writing, excellently, in a softer vein.”
Louise Glück currently teaches at Yale University and resides in Cambridge, MA. Glück has been divorced twice. Her first marriage was to Charles Hertz, Jr. Her second marriage was to John Dranow, a writer, professor, and entrepreneur. She has one son, Noah Dranow, who trained as a sommelier and lives in San Francisco. Glück's elder sister died young before she was born. Her younger sister, Tereze, spent her career with Citibank as a vice president and was also an award-winning author of fiction. Glück's niece is the actress Abigail Savage.