Celebrated poet W.S. Merwin will receive the 2006 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry and read selections of his work at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 31
, in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.
The prize, the ninth to be given, will be awarded to Merwin for his book “Present Company,” published in 2005 by Copper Canyon. The 2006 Bobbitt Prize is awarded for the most distinguished book of poetry published during 2004 and 2005.
The biennial $10,000 prize recognizes a book of poetry written by an American and published during the preceding two years, or the lifetime achievement of an American poet. The prize is donated by the family of the late Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt of Austin, Texas, in her memory, and awarded at the Library of Congress.
Bobbitt was President Lyndon B. Johnson’s sister. While a graduate student in Washington, D.C., during the 1930s, Rebekah Johnson met college student O.P. Bobbitt when they both worked in the cataloging department of the Library of Congress. They married and returned to Texas.
William Merwin was born in New York City in 1927 and educated at Princeton University. From 1949 to 1951, he worked as a tutor in France, Majorca and Portugal. For many years thereafter he made the greater part of his living by translating from French, Spanish, Latin and Portuguese. In 1952, his first book, “A Mask for Janus,” was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize. “The Carrier of Ladders” won the 1971 Pulitzer Prize, and “Migration: New and Selected Poems” (2005) won the National Book Award. He also has nearly 20 books of translation, numerous plays and four books of prose. He lives in Hawaii.
From 1999 to 2000, Merwin served at the Library of Congress as Special Bicentennial Consultant in Poetry, along with Rita Dove and Louise Glück. The three poets helped mark the Library’s 200th anniversary in 2000.
Merwin has received the Bollingen Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the PEN Translation Prize and the Wallace Stevens Award, among other honors. He has held fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation.
The winner of the 2006 Bobbitt National Prize was chosen by jurors Betty Sue Flowers of Austin, Texas, and Sherod Santos of Chicago. Liam Rector also served as a juror until his death in August 2007.