By Panagiota Katsaveli,
For many years, humanity has been celebrating the greatest achievements of some of the world’s most profound humans in various ways, one of which is the Nobel Prize Awards. They are considered the most prestigious awards and they are announced in October and are celebrated in December annually. One of the prizes awarded is the Nobel in Literature. Even though this Prize has been considered by some as the most overlooked one, Literature was the fourth prize category that Alfred Nobel mentioned in his will. This year the award was given to Louise Glück and perhaps now it is time to investigate both the winner and her achievements, don’t you think so?
The win of the Nobel Prize by the American writer, Louise Glück, is an amazing feat which clearly showcases the development and recognition of women writers in the literary industry. For many years, women were not allowed to become writers and only men were given the chance of accomplishment in the field, following on the same path as the rest of the business world. More often than not, some women, including the Brontë sisters, would cover up their real identity or publish their works under male pseudonyms in order to be able to receive the deserving recognition for their poems and novels. In this day and age, our society has progressed, and women’s achievements are highlighted in all arenas. Female writers are recognised and respected, hence a big number of them are receiving awards as a reminder of all their hard work of the past. Regarding the Nobel Prize in Literature, only 16 out of 117 individuals between 1901 and 2020 have been women, the first one being Selma Lagerlöf, a Swedish author and teacher.
Now it seems like the appropriate time to familiarize ourselves with the 2020 winner of this year’s Nobel in Literature. Louise Glück is an American poet born in 1943 in New York City. She has attended Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University and is currently living in Massachusetts. Her literary debut began in 1968 with Firstborn, a collection of poems and she was quickly proclaimed as one of the most distinguished poets in contemporary American literature. Apart from the 2020 Nobel Prize, she has received many prestigious awards including the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 and the National Book Award in 2014. The 13 collections of poetry that she has published portray common characteristics; the centrality of family life, the individual character and the influence of myths, among others. Sensitivity and insight into serious topics such as death, loneliness and divorce are merely some of her signature traits. Many are those who have likened her poetry to that of Emily Dickinson, another important female figure who has left her mark in the writing world. Lastly, besides her writing career, Glück is an English professor at Yale University in Connecticut.
As the Nobel Committee announced, she was given the Prize “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal” as announced on Thursday 8 October 2020 by Mats Malm, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy. After receiving this honor, she was still at shock trying to assess the importance of her achievement and was concerned about preserving her daily life with her loved ones.
Some of Louise Glück’s most well-known works are The Triumph of Achilles (1985) which touches upon the themes of myth and classical antiquity, as well as The Wild Iris (1992) for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and which has been characterised as an original and has been praised for its powerful strangeness. Personally, one of her poems that I thoroughly enjoy is “The Past” from her latest collection, Faithful and Virtuous Night, published in 2014. In this poem, Louise Glück manages to stimulate most of our senses with its visual, auditory and olfactory qualities. The beautiful scenery helps the readers travel with their minds, and it helps us pay attention to the small things in life. Lastly, the “small light in the sky” and all the little things that are perceived within the poem’s depiction of the natural environment, create a feeling of hope for me; even when we do not notice it, things happen and can change our perspective.
Overall, Louise Glück was, is and will always be one of the greatest poets of American literature. Her winning the Nobel Prize in Literature did not come as a surprise and was well-deserved. This year, the global pandemic did not allow for the Nobel celebrations to be held, but the winners will have the chance to solemnise their milestone next year. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for this extraordinary artist who certainly still has to offer a lot more to the writing community. We will be here waiting!