U.S. Poet Laureate Louise Gluck said she accepted a teaching position at Yale in part because she wanted a change of setting after 20 years at Williams College. But she said in an interview Sunday that she expects her new students to be like those at Williams — intelligent, passionate and “a little eccentric.”
Gluck, a Pulitzer Prize winner, will join the Yale English Department as Rosencranz writer-in-residence for a five-year renewable term beginning next fall. She will teach one introductory and one advanced poetry workshop next year.
“I don’t know Yale all that well, but I’m very hopeful. I’ve seen a lot of colleges I haven’t felt quickly responsive to. The ones that are different stand out because they’re very few. Yale is one of them,” Gluck said.
English professor Leslie Brisman quoted one of Gluck’s poems to express how happy he felt about Gluck joining the English department faculty.
“I feel about Louise Gluck coming to Yale what she herself says in ‘Vita Nova’: ‘Life is very weird, no matter how it ends / very filled with dreams,’” Brisman said. “This move is one of my dreams.”
Gluck — whose name is pronounced “glick” — said that as poetry professor she tries to teach her students to ‘follow their noses’ and keep pursuing a particular field of interest for sources of inspiration.
“It’s really important to not disregard your passions, your leanings,” Gluck said. “If you want to watch videos, watch videos. You don’t know really, or determine, what will feed you.”
Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said he attended Gluck’s last public appearance on campus in 2002, when she participated in a symposium featuring the nine recipients of the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, an award given to honor a poet’s lifetime achievement.
“The new poem she read on that occasion was as powerful a reading as I have ever experienced,” Brodhead said.
Although as Poet Laureate she holds the highest national honor bestowed on a poet, Gluck, 60, said she still likes to make time for the simple joys of cooking, going to the gym and simply thinking.
“I read a lot of detective fictions. I stare at a lot of walls. There’s a lot of unused, wasted time, but I think there’s some importance in that,” she said.
English major David Gorin ’04 said he owns seven of Gluck’s books and is currently “obsessed” with “Meadowlands,” a poetry anthology that Gorin explained uses the points of view of characters from “The Odyssey” to portray the breakdown of a nuclear family.
“She manages to turn autobiography into art by chiefly using mouthpieces,” Gorin said. “Her poetry is probably the most emotionally raw out of any contemporary poet that I know of.”
Gluck said what she enjoyed most about holding the title of Poet Laureate was the opportunity to bestow gifts of $10,000 to two young, rising poets. She said she also liked gaining a sense of the newest trends in literature by sharing her opinion on written works for the Yale University Press.
“You find some manuscript that seems radiant and alive; it pleases me profoundly to help such a book into print,” Gluck said.
Gluck, who battled severe anorexia in her youth, said her illness has influenced, but not dominated, her writing.
“The impulses that produced anorexia as a symptom are evident in my work. Do I write about anorexia? Rarely and only once directly,” she said.
Gluck said while growing up, she never imagined making her living as a poet. But she knew she would continue writing, even through the hard times, she said.
“I try to teach my students the kind of patience that will help them survive periods of silence and stretches of bad work,” Gluck said.
Brodhead said Gluck will return to campus to conduct a poetry reading April 26.