W.S. Merwin Appointed as Next Poet Laureate

BY Tom LeGro  July 1, 2010 at 11:16 AM EDT

W.S. Merwin; Photo Copyright: Matt Valentine.

W.S. Merwin; Photo Copyright: Matt Valentine, via the U.S. Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress has appointed W.S. Merwin as the 17th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2010-2011. Merwin will assume the post in the fall, succeeding Kay Ryan.

At 82, Merwin has had a prolific writing career, crafting more than 50 books of verse, translations, memoirs and more. He has an elegant and distinctive style, and famously stopped using punctuation in the 1960s. Merwin’s work has earned him numerous honors and awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes, for “The Shadow of Sirius” in 2009 and “The Carrier of Ladders” in 1971, and the National Book Award for “Migration: New and Selected Poems” in 2005.

“I think we make poems out of what we remember,” Merwin told the NewsHour in 2008. “As soon as I could move a stub of pencil and put words on paper, I wanted to be a poet.”

For more than 30 years, Merwin has lived with his wife Paula in Hawaii. He designed and built their house at the edge of a dormant volcano. He is an avid gardener and passionate environmentalist. His garden has grown into a sanctuary for a number of rare plants.

William Stanley Merwin was born in 1927 and raised in New Jersey and Scranton, Pennsylvania. His father was a minister and his mother exposed him to poetry at an early age. “I was fascinated by the poems that my mother had read to me and by the hymns that we sang in church,” he said.

He will now take on the most public role for a poet in the country, opening the Library of Congress’ annual literary series on Oct. 25 with a reading of his work.

Watch Jeffrey Brown’s conversation with Merwin below:

More of Merwin reading his work after the jump…