No comment before coffee: Louise Glück on Nobel Prize win

According to, the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Glück “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”.

‘It’s too new…’ – Louise Glück

In a call with Adam Smith from the Nobel Prize team after the announcement of her award, Glück said it was “a great honour”, but that “it’s too early here” and that she needs some coffee first…

Listen to the ‘two-minute’ phone conversation here:

The Nobel Prize for Literature, awarded annually by The Swedish Academy in Stockholm, has been a highly sought-after accolade for writers worldwide, for more than 100 years.

In the words of industrialist Alfred Nobel, the prize is awarded to writers who “in the field of literature [have] the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. 

Glück, now 77 years old, made her literary debut in 1968 with her poetry collection, Firstborn. Since then, she has published numerous notable works, such as The Triumph of Achilles (1985) and The Wild Iris (1992). 

d2aa30aa louise gluck books - No comment before coffee: Louise Glück on Nobel Prize win
Louise Glück’s books are on display during the announcement of the 2020 Nobel Prize in literature at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm on 8 October 2020. The American author won the 2020 Nobel Literature Prize, the Swedish Academy said.
Image: Henrik Montgomery / TT News Agency / AFP

Numerous awards

Through her vast writing career, spanning over 50 years, Glück has received numerous prestigious awards for her writing. These include:

  • The Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1993);
  • The National Book Award (2014);
  • The National Humanities Medal, awarded to her in 2015 by former US president Barack Obama;
  • And the Nobel Prize in Literature (2020). 

Along with being a poet and essayist, Glück is also a professor at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, and has been in academic circles for most of her adult life.

After developing anorexia as a teenager, she decided to rather focus on therapy than enrolling at university full-time.

During her recovery, she took part in poetry workshops at numerous universities and after the publication of Firstborn, she began to teach poetry at Goddard College in Vermont. 

Louise Glück fast facts

  • In one of Glück’s most lauded collections, The Wild Iris, she describes the miraculous return of life after winter in the poem “Snowdrops”.
  • She was born 1943 in New York and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Glück seeks the universal, and in this she takes inspiration from myths and classical motifs, present in most of her works.
  • The voices of Dido, Persephone and Eurydice – the abandoned, the punished, the betrayed – are masks for a self in transformation, as personal as it is universally valid.
  • Glück is not only engaged by the errancies and shifting conditions of life, she is also a poet of radical change and rebirth, where the leap forward is made from a deep sense of loss.

Some of her most famous and memorable lines and verses:

“We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory” — from Nostos

Poetry survives because it haunts and it haunts because it is simultaneously utterly clear and deeply mysterious; because it cannot be entirely accounted for, it cannot be exhausted.” — from American Originality: Essays on Poetry

Of two sisters one is always the watcher, one the dancer” — from Descending Figure

The soul is silent. If it speaks at all it speaks in dreams” — from It is Daylight

The unsaid, for me, exerts great power...” — from Proofs and Theories

Additional reporting by AFP

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