Thursday, July 1, 2010

W.S. Merwin named 17th poet laureate

W.S. Merwin ’48 was named the nation’s 17th poet laureate by the Library of Congress on July 1.

Merwin, 82, lives in Hawaii and has twice won the Pulitzer Prize, in 2009 for “The Shadow of Sirius” and in 1971 for “The Carrier of Ladders.” The author of more than 30 books of prose and poetry, he stopped using punctuation in his work in the 1960s, once saying, “I came to feel that punctuation was like nailing the words onto the page … I wanted instead the movement and lightness of the spoken word.”

Of his appointment, Merwin told the New York Times that though he likes “a very quiet life,” he will enjoy “being part of something much more public and talking too much.”

“One always hopes that one is going to draw more attention to poetry and get more people to pay attention to it,” he told the Washington Post, though he added, “I am not primarily a disseminator. I just like to write poems.”

As an undergraduate at the University, Merwin studied with poet John Berryman and critic R.P. Blackmur. He received a degree in English and wrote a thesis titled “John Donne and the Metaphysical Tradition.”

Merwin will succeed Kay Ryan as poet laureate for a one-year term, during which he will seek to promote national appreciation of poetry.