Louise Glück

American poet

Louise Elisabeth Glück (born April 22, 1943) is an American poet and essayist. From 2003 to 2004, she was Poet Laureate of the United States. She has won many major literary awards in the United States, including the National Humanities Medal, Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Bollingen Prize, among others. In 2020, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal."

We look at the world once, in childhood.
The rest is memory.


  • The advantage of poetry over life is that poetry, if it is sharp enough, may last.
    • "Against Sincerity", in American Poetry Review, Vol. XXII, No. 5 (1993), p. 29
  • I am attracted to ellipsis, to the unsaid, to suggestion, to eloquent, deliberate silence. The unsaid, for me, exerts great power: often I wish an entire poem could be made in this vocabulary. It is analogous to the unseen; for example, to the power of ruins, to works of art either damaged or incomplete. Such works inevitably allude to larger contexts; they haunt because they are not whole, though wholeness is implied: another time, a world in which they were whole, or were to have been whole, is implied. There is no moment in which their first home is felt to be the museum.
    • "Disruption, Hesitation, Silence", in American Poetry Review, Vol. XXII, No. 5 (1993), p. 30
  • It seems to me that the desire to make art produces an ongoing experience of longing, a restlessness sometimes, but not inevitably, played out romantically, or sexually. Always there seems something ahead, the next poem or story, visible, at least, apprehensible, but unreachable. To perceive it at all is to be haunted by it; some sound, some tone, becomes a torment—the poem embodying that sound seems to exist somewhere already finished. It's like a lighthouse, except that, as one swims towards it, it backs away.
    • "Education of the Poet", in Proofs & Theories: Essays on Poetry (Hopewell , NJ: The Ecco Press, 1994), p. 16
  • You have to live your life if you're going to do original work. Your work will come out of an authentic life, and if you suppress all of your most passionate impulses in the service of an art that has not yet declared itself, you're making a terrible mistake. When I was young I led the life I thought writers were supposed to lead, in which you repudiate the world, ostentatiously consecrating all of your energies to the task of making art. I just sat in Provincetown at a desk and it was ghastly—the more I sat there not writing the more I thought that I just hadn't given up the world enough. After two years of that, I came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to be a writer. So I took a teaching job in Vermont, though I had spent my life till that point thinking that real poets don't teach. But I took this job, and the minute I started teaching—the minute I had obligations in the world—I started to write again.

The House on Marshland (1975)Edit

  • Father has his arm around Tereze.
    She squints. My thumb
    is in my mouth: my fifth autumn.
    Near the copper beech
    the spaniel dozes in shadows.
    Not one of us does not avert his eyes.
    • "Still Life"

Descending Figure (1980)Edit

  • Of two sisters
    one is always the watcher,
    one the dancer.
    • "Tango"

The Triumph of Achilles (1985)Edit

  • Intense love always leads to mourning.
    • "For My Father"

Ararat (1990)Edit

  • The soul is silent.
    If it speaks at all
    it speaks in dreams.
    • "Child Crying Out"
  • From the beginning of time,
    in childhood, I thought
    that pain meant
    I was not loved.
    It meant I loved.
    • "First Memory"

The Wild Iris (1992)Edit

  • Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
    Then nothing. The weak sun
    flickered over the dry surface.

    It is terrible to survive
    as consciousness
    buried in the dark earth.
    • "The Wild Iris"
  • I did not expect to survive,
    earth suppressing me. I didn't expect
    to waken again, to feel
    in damp earth my body
    able to respond again, remembering
    after so long how to open again
    in the cold light
    of earliest spring—

    afraid, yes, but among you again
    crying yes risk joy

    in the raw wind of the new world.
    • "Snowdrops"

Meadowlands (1996)Edit

  • We look at the world once, in childhood.
    The rest is memory.
    • "Nostos"

Vita Nova (1999)Edit

  • The master said You must write what you see.
    But what I see does not move me.
    The master answered Change what you see.
    • Epigraph

The Seven Ages (2001)Edit

  • I caution you as I was never cautioned
    you will never let go, you will never be satiated.
    • "The Sensual World"

Quotations about GlückEdit

A poet fascinated with border states between existence and nonexistence. ~ Alicia Ostriker
  • One of the purest and most accomplished lyric poets now writing.
  • A poet fascinated with border states between existence and nonexistence.
    • Alicia Ostriker, Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America (London, The Women's Press, 1987), p. 67
  • She was in my poetry seminar at Columbia and I felt that then her poetry was tremendously involved with a kind of female anger but also victimization which I think is something that really has to come out in poetry, but it's not primarily what I would hope to find in women's poems in the future. I'd like to find something much more complicated and dense. But I think there's going to be a lot of that anger in poetry and some of it will be very powerful poetry.
    • Adrienne Rich, "Talking with Adrienne Rich", interview with Stanley Plumly in The Ohio Review, Vol. XIII, No. 1 (Fall 1971), p. 32
  • There is something "disembodied, triumphant, dead"—Whitman's words—about Glück's usual voice [...]. She sees experience from very far off, almost through the wrong end of a telescope, transparently removed in space or time.
    • Helen Vendler, Part of Nature, Part of Us: Modern American Poets (Cambridge: Harvard University Press , 1980), p. 305; quoted in 'The One Continuous Line' by Lucy Collins in Aberration in Modern Poetry: Essays on Atypical Works by Yeats, Auden, Moore, Heaney and Others (Jefferson: McFarland, 2012), p. 111.

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