Wednesday, July 07, 2010
WS Merwin to be US Poet Laureate 2010/11
Following in the footsteps of greats such as Robert Frost and Elizabeth Bishop, WS Merwin will take up the mantle of America's poet laureate this autumn.
The 82-year-old poet has won the Pulitzer prize twice and is the author of more than 30 books of poetry and prose. "He leads us upstream from the flow of everyday things in life to half-hidden headwaters of wisdom about life itself," said James H Billington, librarian of Congress, announcing Merwin's appointment. "[His] poems are often profound and, at the same time, accessible to a vast audience."
WH Auden selected Merwin's first book of poetry, A Mask for Janus, for the Yale Series of Younger Poets award in 1952. In the 1960s Merwin decided to stop using punctuation in his poems. He said he had "come to feel that punctuation stapled the poems to the page ... whereas I wanted the poems to evoke the spoken language, and wanted the hearing of them to be essential to taking them in."
Merwin has lived in Hawaii since 1976. An avid gardener, he grows endangered palm trees on a former pineapple plantation. "Like William Wordsworth, he is passionately interested in the natural world," said Patricia Gray, head of the Library of Congress's poetry and literature centre. "Although his poems often deal with simple, everyday things, there is a nourishing quality about them that makes readers want more."
Billington pointed to Merwin's poem Heartland, where he said that Merwin "seems to suggest that a land of the heart within us might help map the heartland beyond – and that this 'map' might be rediscovered in something like a library, where 'it survived beyond/ what could be known at the time/ in its archaic/ untaught language/ that brings the bees to the rosemary'."
Merwin will take over the post from Kay Ryan in October, holding it for a year. He told the New York Times that he wanted to emphasise his "great sympathy with native people and the languages and literature of native peoples" and his "lifelong concern with the environment" during his tenure as laureate, although he admitted that he does "like a very quiet life".
"I can't keep popping back and forth between here and Washington," said Merwin – but he was looking forward to "being part of something much more public and talking too much".
article from http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jul/05/ws-merwin-us-poet-laureate