March 21, 2011 Poet Laureate Chooses Forrest Gander and Robert Bringhurst For 14th Annual Witter Bynner Award and Reading, April 21

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Poetry Office (202) 707-5394

Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin has chosen two seasoned voices in poetry, Forrest Gander and Robert Bringhurst, to receive the 2011 Witter Bynner Fellowships, and will introduce the poets on April 21 at the Library of Congress.

Gander and Bringhurst will read their poems at 6:45 p.m., on Thursday, April 21, in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave., S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public; tickets are not required.

Gander and Bringhurst each will receive a $7,500 fellowship, provided by the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry in conjunction with the Library of Congress. This is the 14th year the fellowships have been awarded.

Gander, a professor at Brown University, is a poet, essayist, novelist and translator of poetry from Latin America and Spain. His most recent books are “Eye Against Eye” with photographs by Sally Mann (2005); “Torn Awake” (2001); and the translation “Firefly Under the Tongue: Selected Poems of Coral Bracho” (2008).

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass has called Gander “a Southern poet of a relatively hard kind, a restlessly experimental writer.” He is also described as a nature poet.

Born in the Mojave Desert in Barstow, Calif., in 1956, Gander grew up in Virginia and spent significant periods in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico; San Francisco; and Eureka Springs, Ark. Gander holds degrees in both English literature and geology. He lives in Rhode Island with his wife, poet C.D. Wright, and teaches literary arts and comparative literature at Brown University.

Bringhurst is a Canadian poet, author and typographer. He has written 16 books of poetry and the latest is “Selected Poems” (2009). An independent scholar, Bringhurst is known for his award-winning translations of the Haida storytellers Skaay and Ghandl from islands in the Pacific Northwest. His work was published as a trilogy, “Masterworks of the Classical Haida Mythtellers.” He has also written “The Elements of Typographic Style,” a guide to typographic etiquette, grammar and style, which has been reissued several times and translated into many languages.

Born in 1946, Bringhurst was a journalist in Beirut and Boston. He also served in the U.S. military, in a career that took him from Israel and Palestine to the Panama Canal Zone. He holds a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Indiana University and a master’s in poetry from the University of British Columbia. Bringhurst is married to poet Jan Zwicky and lives on Quadra Island, British Columbia.

The Witter Bynner fellowships are to be used to support the writing of poetry. Only two things are asked of the fellows: that they organize a reading in their hometown and participate in a reading and recording session at the Library of Congress. Applications are not taken for the fellowships; the Poet Laureate makes the selection.

The Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry was incorporated in 1972 in New Mexico to provide grant support for programs in poetry through nonprofit organizations. Witter Bynner was an influential early-20th-century poet and translator of the Chinese classic “Tao Te Ching,” which he named “The Way of Life According to Laotzu.” He traveled with D.H. and Frieda Lawrence and proposed to Edna St. Vincent Millay (she accepted, but then they changed their minds). He worked at McClure's Magazine, where he published A.E. Housman for the first time in the United States, and was one of O. Henry's early fans.

Previous Witter Bynner fellows were Carol Muske-Dukes and Carl Phillips (1998), David Gewanter, Heather McHugh and Campbell McGrath (1999), and Naomi Shihab Nye and Joshua Weiner (2000), all appointed by Robert Pinsky; the late Tory Dent and Nick Flynn (2001), appointed by Stanley Kunitz; George Bilgere and Katia Kapovich (2002), and Major Jackson and Rebecca Wee (2003), appointed by Billy Collins; Dana Levin and Spencer Reece (2004), appointed by Louise Gluck; Claudia Emerson and Martin Walls (2005), and Joseph Stroud and Connie Wanek (2006), appointed by Ted Kooser; Laurie Lamon and David Tucker (2007), appointed by Donald Hall; Matthew Thorburn and Monica Youn (2008), appointed by Charles Simic; and Christina Davis and Mary Szybist (2009) and Jill McDonough and Atsuro Riley (2010), appointed by Kay Ryan.

For further information on Witter Bynner fellowships and the poetry program at the Library of Congress, visit


PR 11-063
ISSN 0731-3527