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WOMEN’S WORK: Louise Gluck, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna

by Ron Charles in the Washington Post BOOK Club

Poetic justice: Louise Glück won the Nobel Prize in literature yesterday (story and video). The Swedish Academy cited the “austere beauty” of her poetry. Glück, already one of the most celebrated writers in America, is the 16th woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature since it was first awarded in 1901. The chair of the prize committee, Anders Olsson, said, “Glück’s voice is unmistakable. It is candid and uncompromising, and it signals that this poet wants to be understood — but it is also a voice full of humor and biting wit.”

News that Glück had won the Nobel prize — worth about $1,125,000 — was celebrated by her colleagues and fellow poets. Billy Collins told me, “Glück has found a way in language to delicately blend intelligence and lyricism. Most poets fall either to one side or the other. Besides the well-deserved personal recognition, this is a great moment for American poetry.” Jonathan Galassi, Glück’s editor at FSG, said in a statement, “Glück is one of the rare contemporary poets whose work has the power to speak directly to others through her great and subtle art. It’s wonderful to have her astringent, witty, profoundly human voice, a voice that so richly reflects our own inner feelings and reactions, so broadly recognized.” She is currently working on a collection called “Winter Recipes from the Collective,” which will be published in 2021. The title poem appeared in the American Scholar last year (poem). 

If you’re new to Glück — or a fan — get the collected volume titled, simply, “Poems 1962-2012.” (It’s currently sold out everywhere that I can see, but yesterday FSG announced plans to fire up a reprint.) Reviewing the collection for The Washington Post, Steven Ratiner wrote, “Though Glück lays bare the most intimate moments of longing and loss, these poems are not what we think of as confessional. They are more like the record of a shipwreck survivor trying to come to terms with the strain of isolation and the stark horizon of her island. Language is the castaway’s only refuge” (review).

In this age of Instagram poets, Glück is a literary giant who avoids the spotlight. She once told The Post, “I have very little taste for public forums” (story). But she is now one of just two living American writers who have won the Nobel Prize in literature. The other is Bob Dylan (rant). What’s more, Thursday’s announcement honoring this universally revered poet may finally allow the Nobel committee to move beyond a series of horrendous scandals (the skinny).


Genetic scissors: a tool for rewriting the code of life


Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna are awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020 for discovering one of gene technology’s sharpest tools: the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors. Researchers can use these to change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision. This technology has revolutionised the molecular life sciences, brought new opportunities for plant breeding, is contributing to innovative cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true.

One of the attractions of science is that it is unpredictable – you can never know in advance where an idea or a question may lead. Sometimes a curious mind will meet a dead end, sometimes it will encounter a thorny labyrinth that takes years to navigate. But, now and again, she realises she is the first person ever to gaze upon a horizon of untold possibility.

The gene editor called CRISPR-Cas9 is one such unexpected discovery with breathtaking potential. When Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna started investigating the immune system of a Streptococcus bacterium, one idea was that they could perhaps develop a new form of antibiotic. Instead, they discovered a molecular tool that can be used to make precise incisions in genetic material, making it possible to easily change the code of life. CLICK FOR MORE >

SheVille Team

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