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W.S. Merwin: Online Resources

Created by Peter Armenti, Digital Reference Specialist

W.S. Merwin, U.S. Poet Laureate
W.S. Merwin
U.S. Poet Laureate, 2010-11

Photograph © Matt Valentine,

On July 1, 2010, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced the appointment of W.S. Merwin as the 17th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. On making the appointment, Dr. Billington said:

William Merwin’s poems are often profound and, at the same time, accessible to a vast audience. He leads us upstream from the flow of everyday things in life to half-hidden headwaters of wisdom about life itself. In his poem "Heartland," Merwin seems to suggest that a land of the heart within us might help map the heartland beyond—and that this "map" might be rediscovered in something like a library, where "it survived beyond / what could be known at the time / in its archaic / untaught language / that brings the bees to the rosemary."

In 1999, Dr. Billington appointed Merwin, along with Rita Dove and Louise Glück, Special Consultants in Poetry to assist poet laureate Robert Pinsky with the poetry programs of the Library's Bicentennial Year.

Merwin was born in New York City and educated at Princeton University. He traveled extensively in France, Portugal, and England. He was the author of more than 20 books of poetry. A Mask for Janus, his first book in 1952, was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. His book Migration: Selected Poems 1951-2001 won the National Book Award for poetry in 2005. He twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1971 for his book The Carrier of Ladders, and in 2009 for The Shadow of Sirius. Merwin also published more than 20 books of translation, numerous plays, and six books of prose. A resident of Hawaii.

Merwin described the theme of his term as poet laureate, which ended in May 2011, as "the fact that there’s no separation between human imagination and the rest of life. Put another way, humans are not a separate species. The world is a part of us. It should be part of our joy and our pleasure. When we destroy the world, we’re destroying ourselves."

This guide compiles links to resources on W.S. Merwin throughout the Library of Congress website, as well as links to external websites that include features on his life or selections of his work. To suggest additions to this guide, please contact the Digital Reference Section.

WATCH: Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin Closes the Literary Season (5/4/2011)


Library of Congress Website
   •Selected Press Releases, Articles
   •Audio and Video
   •Print Resources
External Websites
   •Biographical Information, Poetry
   •Interviews, Articles, and Conversations
   •Audio Recordings
   •Articles and Essays by W.S. Merwin
   •Teaching and Study Resources
   •Book Reviews
   •W.S. Merwin in the News

Library of Congress Website

Selected Press Releases, Articles

Poetry and Literature Center Biography of W.S. Merwin

Official press release announcing W.S. Merwin's appointment as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry

"Literary Treasures: Remembering W. S. Merwin, 1927-2019"
From the Catbird Seat, March 22, 2019

"Merwin Wins 2006 Bobbitt Prize"
Library of Congress Information Bulletin, November 2007

"W.S. Merwin, Winner of the Bobbitt Poetry Prize, Will Read, Oct. 31"
October 22, 2007

"A Wealth of Verse: Merwin, Qualls, Sacks Read at Library in October"
Library of Congress Information Bulletin, December 1997

"Poet W.S. Merwin Reads at Library of Congress October 15"
September 22, 1997

Audio and Video

Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin Closes the Literary Season (1:04:27)
May 4, 2011

W.S. Merwin Opens the Literary Season (1:04:23)
October 25, 2010

W.S. Merwin, Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry Recipient, Reads From His Works (1:24:24)
October 31, 2007

Merwin reading his poetry in the Montpelier Room, Library of Congress (1:07:55)
October 15, 1997

W.S. Merwin reading his poems with comment in the Coolidge Auditorium (1:06:07)
November 17, 1979

Print Resources

Works by W.S. Merwin in the Library of Congress online catalog can be found under the following author heading:

Merwin, W.S. (William Stanley), 1927-

Works about W.S. Merwin in the Library of Congress online catalog can be found under the following subject headings:

Merwin, W.S. (William Stanley), 1927---Childhood and youth.
Merwin, W.S. (William Stanley), 1927---Criticism and interpretation.
Merwin, W.S. (William Stanley), 1927- Interviews.
Merwin, W.S. (William Stanley), 1927---Knowledge--Natural history.
Merwin, W.S. (William Stanley), 1927---Travel--Europe.
Merwin, W.S. (William Stanley), 1927---Travel--France--Limousin.

Link disclaimerExternal Websites

(Download the Adobe Acrobat Reader to view PDF documents.)

Biographical Information, Poetry

Academy of American Poets
Biography of W.S. Merwin, samples of his poetry, and links to external resources.

The Merwin Conservancy
Biography of W.S. Merwin from the Merwin Conservancy, whose mission is to "preserv[e] the living legacy of W.S. Merwin, his home and palm forest, for future study and retreat for botanists and writers, for environmental advocacy and community education programs.

Poetry Foundation
Biography of W.S. Merwin, more than 100 full-text poems, audio recordings, and articles by and about Merwin.

W.S. Merwin Papers
A finding aid to the W.S. Merwin Papers at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Interviews, Articles, and Conversations

"Letters From W. S. Merwin"
The Paris Review, March 25, 2019

"WS Merwin Obituary"
The Guardian, March 25, 2019

"Rita Dove Remembers Poet and Friend W.S. Merwin"
Time, March 21, 2019

"W.S. Merwin’s American Consciousness"
The Washington Examiner, March 21, 2019

"W. S. Merwin’s Poems of Ethical Care"
The Atlantic, March 20, 2019

"When You Go Away: Remembering W.S. Merwin"
The New Yorker, March 20, 2019

"The Poet Who Planted Trees"
The New York Times, March 19, 2019

"Poet W.S. Merwin Followed Where the Words Led"
The Christian Science Monitor, March 18, 2019

"Two Memories of W. S. Merwin"
The Paris Review, March 18, 2019

"W. S. Merwin in The New Yorker"
The New Yorker, March 18, 2019

"The Final Prophecy of W. S. Merwin"
The New Yorker, March 17, 2019

"W.S. Merwin, Prize-winning Poet and Ardent Naturalist, Dies in His Maui home"
Honolulu Star Advertiser, March 16, 2019

"W.S. Merwin, Pulitzer-winning Poet and Peahi Resident, Dies"
The Maui News, March 16, 2019

"W.S. Merwin, US Poet Laureate and Zen Buddhist, Dies at 91"
Lion's Roar, March 16, 2019

"W.S. Merwin, Prize-Winning Poet and Conservationist, Has Died at 91"
Vogue, March 15, 2019

"Crashing W. S. Merwin’s Wedding"
The Paris Review, March 15, 2019

"W.S. Merwin, Poet of Life’s Evanescence, Dies at 91"
The New York Times, March 15, 2019

"W.S. Merwin, Former U.S. Poet Laureate, Has Died at 91"
Publishers Weekly, March 15, 2019

"W.S. Merwin, Poet of Austere Lyricism Who Twice Wwon the Pulitzer Prize, Dies at 91"
The Washington Post, March 15, 2019

"W. S. Merwin, 1927–2019"
The Paris Review, March 15, 2019

"Poet W.S. Merwin Dies at 91"
Literary Hub, March 15, 2019

"W.S. Merwin, Prize-winning Poet of Nature, Dies at 91"
Associated Press, March 15, 2019

"Pulitze Prize-winning Poet W.S. Merwin Passes Away at 91"
The Merwin Conservancy, March 15, 2019

"There Is No Time in the Garden"
The American Scholar, March 11, 2019

"The Ascetic Insight of W. S. Merwin"
The New Yorker, September 18, 2017

"Reading a Dysfunctional World: Why Merwin’s The Lice is Needed Now More than Ever"
The Poetry Foundation, July 24, 2017

"New W.S. Merwin-inspired Installation to Ppen at American Writers Museum"
MauiTime, May 3, 2017

"Wife of Poet W.S. Merwin Dies at Their Peahi Home"
The Maui News, March 10, 2017

"The Palm Trees and the Poetry of W.S. Merwin"
The New Yorker, April 29, 2015

"Patt Morrison Asks: The Poet, W.S. Merwin"
Los Angeles Times, August 27, 2011

"Interview with U.S. Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin"
Beached Miami, March 11, 2011

"An Interview with W.S. Merwin, Poet Laureate"
The Progressive, November 2010

Poet and Poem interview
September 2010

"W.S. Merwin is Green as U.S. Poet Laureate"
Los Angeles Times, August 29, 2010

"W.S. Merwin: What Kind of Poet Laureate will He Be?"
The Christian Science Monitor, July 2, 2010

"W.S. Merwin, Hawaii-based Poet, Will Serve as 17th U.S. Laureate"
The Washington Post, July 1, 2010

"W. S. Merwin to Be Named Poet Laureate"
The New York Times, July 1, 2010

"Finding Home and Inspiration in the World of Nature"
The New York Times, June 30, 2010

"Why WS Merwin Deserves His Second Pulitzer Prize"
The Guardian Books blog, April 24, 2009

"W.S. Merwin Interview"
Academy of Achievement, July 3, 2008

"Present in Company: Translator and Poet W.S. Merwin Muses on the Importance of Nothing"
Metroactive, November 21, 2007

W.S. Merwin
Shadowgraph Magazine, 2005

"A Master Gardener of Verse"
The Christian Science Monitor, April 24, 2003

Interview with W.S. Merwin
The Pedestal Magazine, April-June 2003

"Catching Up with Maui’s Most Famous Poet"
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, April 21, 2001

"Swimming Up Into Poetry"
The Atlantic Monthly, August 28, 1997

"A Poet of their Own"
The New York Times, February 19, 1995

"W.S. Merwin"
The Art of Poetry No. 38, The Paris Review, Issue 102 (Spring 1987)

"A Conversation with W.S. Merwin"
Artful Dodge, 1982

Audio Recordings

Radio Programs

"Remembering Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet W. S. Merwin" (20:13)
Fresh Air, NPR, March 22, 2019

"Remember W.S. Merwin" (1:14)
Weekend Edition Saturday, NPR, March 15, 2019

"Poet W.S. Merwin, Who Was Inspired By Conservation, Dies At 91" (4:14)
Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR, March 15, 2019

"Stephanie Land And W.S. Merwin Reflect On The Importance Of Making Mistakes" (4:58)
Montana Public Radio
, June 1, 2016

"W.S. Merwin on Poetry" (19:46)
The Leonard Lopate Show, January 3, 2011

"W.S. Merwin Named Nation's 17th Poet Laureate" (5:10)
All Things Considered, NPR, July 1, 2010

"The Art Of Poetry with W.S. Merwin"
, KUOW, February 4, 2010

"The Poetic 'Shadow' Of Memory, Mortality" (20:35)
Fresh Air, NPR, December 16, 2009

"W.S. Merwin: The 'Sirius' Side Of Poetry" (19:41)
Fresh Air, NPR, April 21, 2009

"W.S. Merwin" (28:29)
Bookworm, KCRW, August 31, 2006

"RADIO ALOUD: A Library of the Airwaves" (Merwin begins at 45:16)
Library Foundation of Los Angeles, April 4, 2005

"Armchair Traveler: W.S. Merwin" (07:05)
Morning Edition, NPR, August 7, 2003

Other Audio

"W.S. Merwin: On Reading What You Want, Reading It Slowly, and the Beauty of Trees" (28:39)
Literary Hub, January 12, 2017

Poetry: W.S. Merwin (52:39)
Hammer Museum, UCLA, October 29, 2009

Rita Dove and W.S. Merwin: A Gift for Language (access through iTunes)
Academy of Achievement, December 3, 2018

W.S. Merwin with Robert Hass
Lannan Readings & Conversations, October 26, 2005

W.S. Merwin: Essential American Poets (08:48)
Poetry Foundation

Poetry Foundation Recordings

Poems of Pollution and Protest (includes recording of Merwin's "In Time" at 02:45)
Essential American Poets (09:11)
"To My Legs" (00:56)
"To the Ancient Order of Legs" (00:46)
W.S. Merwin and Dara Wier on gratitude and food (06:22)


"How Poet W.S. Merwin found Paradise by Planting Palm Trees"
PBS NewsHour, February 20, 2015

"Poet W.S. Merwin Recites 'Rain Light' among the Lush Palms at His Maui Home"
PBS NewsHour, February 2, 2015

"Poets & Readers Together: W.S. Merwin Addresses Librarians at Poets House" (6:41)
Poets House, via YouTube, October 21, 2010

"A Conversation with W.S. Merwin" (35:18)
The Kenyon Review, Fall 2010

"W.S. Merwin on Becoming the New Poet Laureate" (7:26)
PBS NewsHour
, October 27, 2010

"W.S. Merwin in conversation with Paul Holdengräber" (1:47:41)
LIVE from the NYPL, October 22, 2010, via YouTube

Bill Moyers Journal (Part One - 18:53; Part Two - 30:25)
June 26, 2009

"W.S. Merwin: A Passion for Poetry and the Natural World"
Online NewsHour Poetry Series, December 29, 2008

"A Tribute to W.S. Merwin at the 92nd Streey Y" (38:17)
92Y, October 10, 2005

W.S. Merwin with Naomi Shihab Nye
Lannan Readings & Conversations, October 18, 2000

Search results for W.S. Merwin

Articles and Essays by W.S. Merwin

"Who Do You Love? A Poet and Translator Illuminates Five Heart-stopping Moments."
Poetry Foundation, October 31, 2007

Teaching and Study Resources

Introductions, Guides, and Poem Explications

"Merwin, W.S. - Introduction."
Poetry Criticism, v. 45, 2003. (via

Modern American Poetry
Includes scholarly criticism of more than a dozen Merwin poems, an online interview, links to book reviews, and more.

W.S. Merwin: "The Nails"
Poetry Foundation Poem Guide

Critical Articles

"Lost Origins: W.S. Merwin's Poems of Division"
Weber, v. 14, no. 2 (Spring/Summer 1997)

"Seeing the West Side of Any Mountain: Thoreau and Contemporary Ecological Poetry"
Jacket Magazine, v. 2, no. 1 (includes discussion of Merwin's poem "The Last One")

Book Reviews

Excerpts of several reviews on the Modern American Poetry website

The Shadow of Sirius (2008)

The Christian Science Monitor

The New York Times

The Seattle Times

The Book of Fables (2007)

San Francisco Chronicle

The Washington Post

Selected Poems (2007)

The Guardian

Migration: New and Selected Poems (2005)

Jacket Magazine

The New York Times

Present Company (2005)

Beloit Poetry Journal

Summer Doorways: A Memoir (2005)

The New York Times

Notre Dame Review

The Ends of the Earth: Essays (2004)

The New York Times

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A New Verse Translation (2004)

Boston Review

The Guardian

The New Criterion

The Mays of Ventadorn (2002)

San Francisco Chronicle

The Pupil: Poems (2001)

The New York Times

Purgatorio (2001 translation)

Boston Review

The River Sound (1999)

The New York Times

The Richmond Review

The Vixen (1996)

Boston Review

The Lost Upland (1992)

The New York Times

Selected Poems (1988)

The New York Times 1

The New York Times 2

The Rain in the Trees (1988)

The New York Times 1

The New York Times 2

The Lice (1967)

Open Letters Monthly

Spanish Ballads (1961)

coldfront magazine

W.S. Merwin in the News

Google News search on W.S. Merwin

References to W.S. Merwin on Twitter

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