Merwin, W. S.

Merwin, W. S. (William Stanley Merwin), 1927–, American poet and translator, b. New York City. After graduating from Princeton in 1948, he traveled in Europe, working as a tutor and studying Romance languages, a period described many years later in his memoir Summer Doorways (2005). He has lived in Maui, Hawaii, in a mountain forest which he has restored, since 1976. Merwin is noted for his restrained, spare, unpunctuated, sometimes remote, often elegiac, and always finely wrought verse. His poetry frequently focuses on nature and the human response to it as well as on memory and mortality. It embodies a contemplative engagement with myth and religious vision and often expresses an overwhelming sense of loss. His many volumes of poetry include A Mask for Janus (1952), The Moving Target (1963), The Lice (1967), The Carrier of Ladders (1970; Pulitzer Prize), Opening the Hand (1983), Travels (1993), The River Sound (1999), The Pupil (2002), The Shadow of Sirius (2009; Pulitzer Prize), and Garden Time (2016). Merwin is also well known for his translations, among them The Cid (1959) and The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes (1962). He was poet laureate of the United States from 2010 to 2011.

See M. Wiegers, ed., The Essential W. S. Merwin (2017), his memoir of childhood, Unframed Originals (1982); studies by C. Davis (1981), M. Christhif (1986), C. Nelson and E. Folsom, ed. (1987), E. J. Brunner (1991), H. L. Hix (1997), J. Frazier (1999), and H. Bloom, ed. (2004).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: American Literature: Biographies