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Nobel Prize-winning poet Louise Glück dies at 80

Louise Glück attends the National Book Awards on Nov. 19, 2014, in New York City.
Robin Marchant
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Getty Images
Louise Glück attends the National Book Awards on Nov. 19, 2014, in New York City.

Updated October 13, 2023 at 5:46 PM ET

Louise Glück, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature and Poet Laureate of the United States from 2003-2004 has died. She was 80 years old.

Glück's death was confirmed by her publisher, the MacMillan imprint Farrar, Straus & Giroux, on Friday.

"Louise Glück's poetry gives voice to our untrusting but un-stillable need for knowledge and connection in an often unreliable world," said the poet's longtime editor, Jonathan Galassi, in a statement. "Her work is immortal."

One of the country's most revered poets, Glück took her inspiration from Greek mythology, her own life, and even everyday things. For instance, her poem about dying, The Wild Iris, is told from the perspective of a flower:

"At the end of my suffering / there was a door. / Hear me out: that which you call death / I remember."

"Louise's voice was wholly its own, always deft and strange. She built up the terrain of lyric poetry — making it new while singing its deep past," said poet Tess Taylor. "The poems struggled with beauty. There was a huge daring in them."

Over a career spanning around five decades, Gluck's spare, incisive verse won fistfuls of awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Humanities Medal, and the National Book Award. She was published in The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly, and served as the Frederick Iseman Professor in the Practice of Poetry at Yale University.

"Louise was a transformative mentor for so many poets," said poet and teacher Dana Levin, whose career was launched after Glück selected her inaugural collection for the American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize in 1999. "She had an uncanny ability to see the idiosyncratic genius inside a young poet, and was truly excited to help it develop."

Louise Glück's books on display during the announcement of the 2020 Nobel Prize in literature at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm on Oct. 8, 2020.
Henrik Montgomery / TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images
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TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images
Louise Glück's books on display during the announcement of the 2020 Nobel Prize in literature at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm on Oct. 8, 2020.

Glück was born in New York in 1943. Her first book was rejected 28 times, she said in her Nobel biography. Its publication was followed by a long writing drought.

But eventually the poet returned to writing. "That it happened at all is a wonder," she said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.