Poet Louise Glück at Williams College Awarded Coveted Bollingen Prize

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., February 21, 2001 — One of America’s most renowned poets, Louise Glück is the winner of the coveted Bollingen Prize in Poetry. She is the Preston S. Parish ’41 Third Century Senior Lecturer in English at Williams College.
Louise Gluck

The award, which includes $50,000 cash, has been won over the years by such major American poets as John Ashbery, W.H. Auden, e.e.cummings, Robert Frost, James Merrill, Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, and Robert Penn Warren.

“One of the very special appeals of this prize is that the previous poets chosen for this award are the ones you’d like to share history with,” said Glück.

The Bollingen Prize in Poetry, established by Paul Mellon in 1949, is awarded biennially by the Yale University Library to an American poet for the best book published during the previous two years for lifetime achievement in poetry.

“I was surprised; I certainly didn’t know that my name was being considered,” said Glück about hearing that she’d won the prize. “I thought they might be calling to ask me to do a reading.”

The three-judge panel that named Glück said of her work: “In the work of no other contemporary American poet is the individual psyche so unsparingly portrayed in both the anguish and the humor with which it confronts its profound solitude and the twin darknesses which precede birth and follow life…[Glück] deals with powerful emotions, expressed in a language of surpassing clarity and spareness, full of passion and devoid of sentiment.”

Glück was born in New York City in 1943. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University. She has been on the faculty of Williams College since 1984. She has taught at Brandeis University, Harvard University, and the University of California.

In an earlier interview, she said that she loves teaching: “I especially like teaching undergraduates, provided they’re gifted, and eccentric, and ardent, which the students at Williams by and large are. I have some amazing minds to work with there; they force me to think.”

Her many awards include the PEN/Martha Allbrand Nonfiction Prize, the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Bobbitt National Prize from the Library of Congress, the Poetry Society’s William Carlos Williams prize, the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for “The Wild Iris,” the Ambassador’s Award from the English Speaking Union, and the Boston Globe Literary Press Award. In 1999 she was elected a chancellor of The Academy of American Poets.

Glück’s poetry volumes include “First born” (1968), “The House on Marshland” (1975), “The Garden” (1976), “Descending Figure” (1980), “The Triumph of Achilles” (1985), “Aranat” (1990), “The Wild Iris” (1992), “Meadowlands” (1996), and “Vita Nova” (1999). “Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry” appeared in 1994. “The Seven Ages,” a new book of poems, will be published by Ecco Press in April.