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Louise Gluck is named U.S. poet laureate

August 29, 2003|Renee Tawa | Times Staff Writer

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Louise Gluck will succeed Billy Collins as U.S. poet laureate on Oct. 21, the Library of Congress announced Thursday.

"Louise Gluck will bring to the Library of Congress a strong, vivid, deep poetic voice.... Her great interest in young poets will enliven the poet laureate's office during the next year," Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in a statement.

Gluck's work is widely acclaimed and often described by critics as dark, in sharp contrast to Collins' style, which is typically light and accessible. Collins is far better known; in the past two years as poet laureate, he has attracted sold-out crowds to readings nationwide and promoted his top-selling poetry books in high-profile appearances on the "Today" show and other venues.

Gluck, 60, a native of New York, is more low-key. This fall, for instance, a nonprofit literary press in Kentucky, Sarabande Books, will publish her new six-part poem, "October," in the form of a chapbook.

She has taught poetry at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., since 1983.

Though the poet laureate's post is largely symbolic, the title holder often is called upon to speak out on poetry issues and on behalf of the country's poets. Collins, for instance, composed and read a poem before a special joint session of Congress in New York last year, to memorialize victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The job carries few specific duties. Collins started a program and Web site called Poetry 180, designed to encourage students to read poetry.

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