The Nobel laureate spoke at the Yale University Art Gallery on Tuesday.
Courtesy of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Louise Glück, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature and Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale, gave this year’s seminal lecture on Tuesday at the Yale University Art Gallery.
Created by the English Department in 2018, the Core Course Reading Series aims to connect students with established, award-winning writers. Past speakers include Rita Dove, Robert Pinsky and Natasha Tretheway, all former United States Poet Laureates. Glück, however, is the first Nobel laureate to lead the conference. The decision to have Glück give this year’s lecture comes after two years of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the English department website“these lectures shed light on how poetry energizes the history of the English language and also point to how students can learn to claim their own place in that history, regardless of their background.”
Canceled when the pandemic began in 2020, then held virtually in 2021, this year marks the first time in two years that the conference has been held in person. Glück’s lecture aims to celebrate his career and show the power of poetry in difficult times, according to Professor Richard Deming, director of creative writing in the Department of English.
“This year, it seemed important to me to ask Louise [Glück]”, Deming said. “In doing so, we are leaning on our own community to replenish itself and show that even though we have resisted so much over the past few years, we are still here, still strong.
Glück’s Nobel Prize win, which came during the pandemic, could not be celebrated with the usual fanfare, according to Stephanie Markovits, director of undergraduate studies in the English department.
“We hadn’t been able to properly celebrate his Nobel Prize as a department, as he did amid the pandemic,” she said. “This event would offer us the chance to come together in a way that highlights not only his contributions to the field of literature in general, but also his contributions as a teacher of poetry to our own students.”
Glück’s work is praised for its meditations on poetic tradition and the struggles of modern life.
“Louise Gluck’s magnificent and extraordinary work was… peculiar and artful before she won the Nobel Prize,” said Cynthia Zarin, poet and professor of creative writing. “His most recent book, ‘Winter Recipes From The Collective’ continues this calm and moving speaking trajectory. Glück’s poetry is known for “[capturing] the essence of what the lyrical mode can accomplish,” according to Markovits, who said that “his poems give meaning to life.”
It is this collective agreement on the emotional intensity of Glück’s work that is at the heart of the decision to select her as keynote speaker 2021-22.
“Who better to ask than Louise, whose poems meant so much to so many of us, and whose teaching and friendship mattered immensely as a source of, say, not resilience but determination?” Deming asked. “[She] is the most important lyric poet and one of the most distinctive and urgent voices we have to work in and with the English language.
Ultimately, the Foundational Lectures are presented as a celebration of the work of the lecturer and go hand-in-hand with the course materials of the Foundational English courses – “English 125, 126, 127 and 128” – which are required for students wishing to specialize in English. As an extension of the core courses, Markovits said, “we also hope that students hearing [the lecturer’s] the work will be able to relate the poetry read by the founding lecturer to other works they have encountered in their classes, breathing new life into those works.
The conference is therefore a welcome addition. “It’s good for students to attend lectures and readings that will broaden their knowledge of the world,” Zarin said.
As for who will be chosen to lead the fundamental conference of 2023, Markovits said: “It would give the intrigue!”
The Foundation Course lecture was held at the Yale University Art Gallery.