Thursday, July 01, 2010

New U.S. Poet Laureate: W. S. Merwin

[Here is the National Book Award announcement:]

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).

For more information on W.S. Merwin's life and work, visit:

The National Book Foundation:
The Library of Congress:
The Poetry Foundation:


And here's today's New York Times exploration of Merwin's work:

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