Louise Glück Named Poet Laureate

Kevin Larimer

Louise Glück has been appointed the 12th poet laureate of the United States by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. Glück, whose one-year term began last month, succeeds Billy Collins.

The author of 10 volumes of poetry, including The Wild Iris, which received the 1993 Pulitzer Prize and the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award, Glück teaches poetry at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and lives in Cambridge. Her other honors include a National Book Critics Circle Award for her 1985 book The Triumph of Achilles, the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts.

In April 2004, Sarabande Books, a nonprofit literary press in Louisville, Kentucky, will publish Glück’s new collection, October, as part of its Quarternote Chapbook Series.

In January Glück succeeded W.S. Merwin as the judge of the Yale Series of Younger Poets. She is the first female judge in the 84-year-old series, which annually publishes a first book of poems. She will continue as judge through 2008.

The poet laureate post includes an office at the Library of Congress, a $35,000 salary, and a commitment to organize and deliver poetry readings. Previous poets laureate have established special projects during their tenures. In 1998 Robert Pinsky created the Favorite Poem Project (www.favoritepoem.org), an archive of audio and video recordings of Americans reading a favorite poem; last year Billy Collins initiated Poetry 180 (www.loc.gov/poetry/180), a program designed to make poetry an active part of the daily experience of American high school students.

For her part, Glück says she will concentrate on promoting young poets and poetry contests. As of this writing she has not announced plans for a specific initiative, but then, as former poet laureate Stanley Kunitz said of the position in these pages on the eve of his appointment, “It can be whatever one wants it to be.”

Kevin Larimer is the associate editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.