CAMBRIDGE (CBS/CNN) — A Cambridge poet has been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. Louise Glück won the 2020 prize “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”

She is the first American to win the prestigious award since Bob Dylan was honored in 2016. Toni Morrison was the last American to receive the prize before him, winning in 1993.

Glück was born in New York in 1943 and is a professor of English at Yale University in Connecticut. She made her debut in 1968 with “Firstborn,” and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 and the National Book Award in 2014.

Glück, the 16th woman to win the literature prize, has published 12 collections of poetry and several volumes of essays on poetry. Her writing is characterized by a striving for clarity and focuses on themes of childhood and family relationships, according to notes from Anders Olsson, Chairman of the Nobel Committee.

But he emphasized that while autobiographical background was significant, she is not a confessional poet, comparing her to Emily Dickinson. Glück’s work seeks the universal and she takes inspiration from myths and classical motifs, Olsson noted.

“Snowdrops,” from her 1992 Pulitzer-winning collection “The Wild Iris,” describes the miraculous return of life after winter:

“I did not expect to survive,

earth suppressing me. I didn’t expect

to waken again, to feel

in damp earth my body.”

Her 2006 collection “Averno” is an interpretation of the myth of Persephone’s descent into hell in the captivity of Hades, the god of death. Her latest collection was “Faithful and Virtuous Night” in 2014, for which she won the National Book Award.

In 2015, she was given a National Humanities Medal by Barack Obama at the White House.

Glück will receive 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million) for the award, which was announced at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm.

Her 1999 collection Vita Nova ends with the lines: “I thought my life was over and my heart was broken. / Then I moved to Cambridge.”

Last year’s decision to give the Nobel literature award to Peter Handke was deeply controversial, with critics calling it “shameful” because of his comments on the Yugoslav Wars and ties to former Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević, who was charged with war crimes.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN’s Emma Reynolds contributed to this report.)

 

 

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