William Stanley Merwin, will be the guest author at the Lenoir-Rhyne University Visiting Writers Series on Tuesday, Nov. 2 at 7:00 p.m. in the Belk Centrum on campus.
At 82, Merwin has written more than 30 books of poetry, translation and prose over the course of six decades. He attended Princeton University on a scholarship, where he was a classmate of Galway Kinnell, and studied poetry with the critic R. P. Blackmur, and his teaching assistant, John Berryman. After graduating in 1948, he spent an additional year at Princeton studying Romance language.
Merwin's first collection, Mask for Janus (1952), was selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Green with Beasts (1956) and The Drunk in the Furnace (1960), both demonstrate the beginning of a significant shift in style and perspective, which intensified in his later work. In 1967, Merwin published the critically acclaimed volume, The Lice, followed by The Carrier of Ladders in 1970, both of which remain his most influential collections. Both books use classical legends as a means to explore personal and political themes, including his opposition to the Vietnam War.
In 1971, Merwin received the Pulitzer Prize for The Carrier of Ladders. The rigorous practice of Buddhism and passionate dedication to environmentalism that Merwin devoted himself to in Hawaii has profoundly influenced his later work, including his evocative renderings of the natural world in The Compass Flower (1977), Opening the Hand (1983), and The Rain in the Trees (1988), as well as The Folding Cliffs, a novel-in-verse drawing on the history and legends of Hawaii.
Over the course of his long career, Merwin has published over twenty books of poetry. His recent collections include Present Company (Copper Canyon, 2007); Migration: New & Selected Poems (2005) which won the 2005 National Book Award; The Pupil (2002); The River Sound (1999), which was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; Flower and Hand: Poems 1977-1983 (1997); The Vixen (1996); Travels (1993), which received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; and The Shadow of Sirius, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.
Earlier this year, Merwin was selected by the Librarian of Congress to serve as the national poet laureate. The Librarian consults with the current laureate, former appointees, distinguished poetry critics and staff in the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center in making the appointment. Merwin will be in Washington D.C. Oct. 25 to open the library’s annual literary series with a reading.
He currently lives on a former pineapple plantation built atop a dormant volcano in Maui, Hawaii.