Louise Gluck Wins Bollingen Prize in Poetry

A three-judge panel has named Louise Gluck the 2001 winner of Yale University's Bollingen Prize in Poetry, for her 1999 book, "Vita Nova," published by Ecco Press.

A three-judge panel has named Louise Gluck the 2001 winner of Yale University’s Bollingen Prize in Poetry, for her 1999 book, “Vita Nova,” published by Ecco Press.

The judges wrote, “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… [Gluck] deals with powerful emotions, expressed in a language of surpassing clarity and spareness, full of passion and devoid of sentiment.”

This year’s Bollingen Prize judges were Bonnie Costello, professor of English at Boston University, and the poets Henri Cole and Karl Kirchwey.

Gluck was born in New York City in 1943. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University and studied with Leonie Adams and Stanley Kunitz, both winners of the Bollingen Prize. She has been on the faculty of Williams College since 1984. Her many awards include the PEN/Martha Allbrand Nonfiction Prize, the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1981), the Bobbitt National Prize from the Library of Congress, the William Carlos Williams award from the Poetry Society of America, the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for “The Wild Iris,” a Lannan Foundation Award and the Ambassador’s Award from the English Speaking Union.

Gluck’s poetry volumes include “Firstborn” (1968), “The House on Marshland” (1975), “The Garden” (1976), “Descending Figure” (1980), “The Triumph of Achilles” (1985), “Ararat” (1990), “The Wild Iris” (1992), and “Meadowlands” (1996). “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.

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 or for lifetime achievement in poetry. Previous winners include Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, W. H. Auden, E. E. Cummings, Robert Frost, James Merrill, John Hollander and John Ashbery. The prize includes a cash award of $50,000.

For further information, please contact Patricia C. Willis, curator of the Yale Collection of American Literature, 203-432-2962 or patricia.willis@yale.edu.

The Queen of Carthage

Brutal to love,
more brutal to die.
And brutal beyond the reaches of justice
to die of love.

In the end Dido
summoned her ladies in waiting
that they might see
the harsh destiny inscribed for her by the Fates.

She said, “Aeneas
came to me over the shimmering water;
I asked the Fates
to permit him to return my passion,
even for a short time. What difference between that and a lifetime: in truth, in such moments,
they are the same, they are both eternity.

I was given a great gift
which I attempted to increase, to prolong.
Aeneas came to me over the water: the beginning
blinded me.

Now the Queen of Carthage
will accept suffering as she accepted favor:
to be noticed by the Fates
is some distinction after all.

Or should one say, to have honored hunger,
since the Fates go by that name also.”

-from Vita Nova, Ecco Books, 1999

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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325