Thursday, July 8, 2010

W.S. Merwin Named U.S. Poet Laureate

W.S. Merwin, an influential poet and translator and Winner of the National Book Award for Poetry, has been chosen to succeed Kay Ryan as the Poet Laureate of the United States. The Poet Laureate, who is appointed annually by the Librarian of Congress, serves from October to May and receives a $35,000 stipend.

Merwin was born in 1927 in New York City and was raised in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He received a scholarship to attend Princeton University, where he studied under R.P. Blackmur and John Berryman, and graduated in 1948. While traveling in Europe and studying Romance languages as a graduate student, Merwin began translating poetry and working as a tutor, one of his clients being the son of the poet Robert Graves.

In 1952, W.H. Auden selected Merwin's first book of poetry, A Mask for Janus, for publication in the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Merwin has since written more than two dozen volumes of poetry with themes ranging from the Vietnam War to deep ecology and a style that has run the gamut from classical to experimental. Merwin was a National Book Award Poetry Finalist five times before he finally won the Award in 2005 for Migration: New and Selected Poems. He also received the Tanning Prize from the Academy of American Poets (1994) and was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (in 1971 and 2009). {from a National Book Foundation press release}

The Shadow of Sirius
Winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
The nuanced mysteries of light, darkness, presence, and memory are central themes in W.S. Merwin’s new book of poems. “I have only what I remember,” Merwin admits, and his memories are focused and profound—the distinct qualities of autumn light, a conversation with a boyhood teacher, well-cultivated loves, and “our long evenings and astonishment.” In “Photographer,” Merwin presents the scene where armloads of antique glass negatives are saved from a dumpcart by “someone who understood.” In “Empty Lot,” Merwin evokes a child lying in bed at night, listening to the muffled dynamite blasts of coal mining near his home, and we can’t help but ask: How shall we mine our lives?

The Second Four Books of Poems
W. S. Merwin's SECOND FOUR BOOKS OF POEMS includes some of the most startlingly original and influential poetry of the second half of this century, a poetry that has moved, as Richard Howard has written, "from preterition to presence to prophecy." This work has transfigured and reinvigorated the vision of poetry for our time, and the poet's preface places the work in proper historical - and autobiographical - context. Collects The Moving Target, The Lice, The Carrier of Ladders, and Writings to an Unfinished Accompaniment.

Read the CSM article "W.S. Merwin: What Kind of Poet Laureate Will He Be?"

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