The world of literature has lost a luminary. Louise Gluck, the American poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2020, has passed away at the age of 80. Her death was confirmed by Jonathan Galassi, her editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux. According to Galassi, Gluck succumbed to cancer at her residence in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The news has been reported by various outlets, including the Associated Press.
Jorie Graham, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former student of Gluck, revealed that the poet had only recently been diagnosed with cancer. “I find it very much like her that she only learned she had cancer a few days before dying from it,” Graham said.
Born in 1943 in New York to a Jewish family with roots in Russia and Hungary, Louise Gluck had a challenging early life. She battled a severe form of anorexia nervosa during her teenage years, which prevented her from completing college. Despite this, she found solace in poetry, publishing her first collection, “Firstborn,” in 1967. She went on to teach at prestigious institutions like Stanford University and Yale University.
In 2020, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, becoming the first American to win the prize in this category since 1948. The Nobel committee lauded her “unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”
Gluck’s work often delved into themes of trauma, disillusionment, and the human condition, punctuated by fleeting moments of ecstasy and contentment. Her poetry was influenced by a range of classical and modern sources, including Shakespeare and Greek mythology.
Not just confined to the world of literature, Gluck was also vocal about socio-political issues. In the spring of 2021, she signed a letter demanding that Russian doctors be allowed to see the imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Louise Gluck leaves behind a legacy that will continue to inspire and challenge both readers and writers for generations to come. Her own words perhaps best encapsulate her enduring impact: “The advantage of poetry over life is that poetry, if it is good, can live forever.”