Born in New York, the son of a Presbyterian minister, W.S. Merwin earned early acclaim as a gifted American poet by winning the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1952 for his very first book A Mask for Janus. As the title indicates, Merwin was at this time pursuing more formal structures for his poetry, drawing influences from Greek and Medieval poets and from his work at Princeton with John Berryman and R.P. Blackmur. He soon began to find his own voice as a modern Whitman exploring, among other things, the continuing theme of human separation from nature and its potentially disastrous consequences. Another continuing and related theme, as for Whitman, is the significance of American values and culture and the events and disruptions associated with American Westward expansion.

His most famous work came in 1967 when he published The Lice which is often interpreted as a condemnation of the war in Viet Nam, and in 1970 he published The Carrier of Ladders which won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry and whose prize money Merwin donated to the draft resistance movement. This vocal support for a political cause provoked a public response from W.H. Auden, who was primarily responsible for Merwin’s winning the Younger Poets Prize nineteen years earlier, arguing that the Pulitzer should be viewed as apolitical.

Merwin has been awarded many literary awards including the Bollingen Prize, two Pulitzer Prizes, the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry, and others. In 2010 and 2011 he was the Poet Laureate of the United States.

 

Books by W.S. Merwin available from Boreas Fine Art:

[ Campbell, Carolee ]  Merwin, W.S.  Lives of the Artists.  [Sherman Oaks]: Ninja Press.  2013.  $950.

[ Koch, Peter ]  Merwin, W.S.  Small Elegies.  Berkeley: Editions Koch.  2011.  $450.

 

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