US poet Louise Gluck was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature "for her unmistakable poetic voice," the Swedish Academy said on Thursday.
"In her poems, the self listens for what is left of its dreams and delusions, and nobody can be harder than she in confronting the illusions of the self," the academy said.
Gluck, 77, debuted as a writer in 1968 with "Firstborn" and has published 12 collections of poetry, as well as volumes of essays on poetry.
She was born in 1943 in New York and works as a professor of English at Yale University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Academy permanent secretary Mats Malm, who made the public announcement, said she was surprised to win the award.
It came "as a surprise but a welcome one, as far as I could tell," Malm said, minutes after making the call that reached Gluck early in the morning in the US.
Malm said arrangements would be made with Gluck's university on how she would receive her award - comprising a diploma and a medal - given that the 10 December award ceremony in Stockholm could not take place as usual this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Her Nobel lecture would likely take place online.
Gluck and other laureates would be invited to Stockholm next year, he added.
Academy member Anders Olsson, and chair of the Nobel Committee, said Gluck's collections of poetry "are characterized by a striving for clarity."
He said that, while the US poet has written on childhood and family life, "she is not to be regarded as a confessional poet."
Gluck's voice is "unmistakable," she has a crystal-clear language, he added.
The author "seeks the universal, and in this she takes inspiration from myths and classical motifs, present in most of her works," he said.
Last year, the academy announced two Nobel Prizes in Literature - Polish author Olga Tokarczuk for the year 2018, and Austrian author Peter Handke for 2019 - after it had postponed the 2018 award due to a sexual assault scandal and alleged conflicts of interest.
A shake-up of the academy ensued, and an external committee has assisted the academy. While the external committee's term would likely not be extended, the members had done a "superb" job, Olsson said.
The academy received 197 nominations for this year's prize, but it often takes several years to assess and evaluate an author's production.
He said the academy was seeking to "broaden" the nomination process and widen the field of experts it consults.
Olsson said he personally recommended readers to read Gluck's latest volume, "Faithful and Virtuous Night" from 2014. Gluck received the National Book Award for it.
She has received several prestigious awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize (1993) and the National Book Award (2014).
16 women awarded since 1901
Including Gluck, 16 women have been awarded the literature Nobel since 1901.
Olsson had no comment on reports that betting odds on Gluck dropped shortly before the announcement, fuelling fears of a possible leak.
Yale University put a link to the Nobel announcement on its homepage, while Yale University Press tweeted its "huge congratulations" to Gluck. "We are all so thrilled for her!" the message said.
10 December is the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel (1833-96), the inventor of dynamite.
This year's awards are each worth 10 million kronor (around 958,000 euros).
Nobel prizes this year have already been awarded in the fields of medicine, physics and chemistry.
The Nobel Prize for Peace announcement is due on Friday, while the economics award is due next week.
With the exception of economics, the prizes were all endowed by Nobel.