An Evening with the Poet


Two time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, W.S. Merwin is a major American writer whose poetry, translations, and prose have won praise since W.H. Auden awarded his first book, A Mask for Janus (1952), the Yale Younger Poets Prize. Though that first book reflected the formalism of the period, Merwin eventually became known for an impersonal, open style that eschewed punctuation. Writing in the Guardian, Jay Parini described Merwin’s mature style as “his own kind of free verse, [where] he layered image upon bright image, allowing the lines to hang in space, largely without punctuation, without rhymes . . . with a kind of graceful urgency.” Although Merwin’s writing has undergone stylistic changes through the course of his career, a recurring theme is man’s separation from nature. The poet sees the consequences of that alienation as disastrous, both for the human race and for the rest of the world. Merwin, who is a practicing Buddhist as well as a proponent of deep ecology, has lived since the late 1970s on an old pineapple plantation in Hawaii which he has painstakingly restored to its original rainforest state.

Merwin's honors include the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry, the Bollingen Prize, a Ford Foundation grant, the Governor's Award for Literature of the State of Hawaii, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the PEN Translation Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the Wallace Stevens Award, and a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award, and fellowships from The Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

W.S. Merwin attended Princeton University. He is a former Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets and has served as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress.
Merwin’s contributions to literature are nearly too extensive to list. For a list of poetry, translated works, books, periodicals and online contributions click either of the following links:

W.S. Merwin is this year’s Ricardo J. Quinones Distinguished Lecturer, a lectureship established in honor of the founding director of the Family of Benjamin Z. Gould Center for Humanistic Studies, Ricardo Quinones, Josephine Olp Weeks Professor of Comparative Literature, CMC, Emeritus.