April 8, 2011 Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin Closes the Literary Season on May 4
Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Rob Casper (202) 707-5394
U.S. Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin—the two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, hailed by the New York Times as the “undisputed master”—will conclude the Library of Congress spring literary season with a reading of his work.
Merwin will give the reading at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4, in the Coolidge Auditorium on the ground level of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are needed. A book-signing will follow the reading.
During a 60-year writing career, Merwin has been a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, most recently in 2009 for “The Shadow of Sirius” and in 1971 for “The Carrier of Ladders.” In 2006, he won the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress for “Present Company.” His retrospective collection “Migration: New and Selected Poems” won the 2005 National Book Award for poetry.
Born in New York City in 1927, Merwin was raised in Union City, N.J., (on a street now named “W.S. Merwin Way”) and in Scranton, Pa. Merwin showed an early interest in language and music, writing hymns for his father, a Presbyterian minister. He studied poetry at Princeton and, in 1952, his first book, “A Mask for Janus,” was selected by W.H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award.
The author of more than 30 books of poetry and prose, Merwin’s influence on American poetry is profound. Harold Bloom, Yale professor and literary critic, said Merwin has become “indubitably the representative poet of my generation.”
Since 1976, Merwin has lived in Hawaii, where he received the Governor’s Award in Literature. An ecologically committed poet, Merwin has raised endangered palm trees on his land. He and his wife, Paula, have fashioned a quiet life in beautiful, natural surroundings.
On July 1, 2010, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington appointed Merwin as the Library’s 17th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.
The Poetry and Literature Center administers both the noon and the evening series and is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. Many of the nation's most eminent poets have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of Public Law 99‑194 (Dec. 20, 1985), as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/poetry/.