W.S. Merwin

Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin Wins Kenyon Review Literary Achievement Award

GAMBIER, Ohio – The Kenyon Review has selected poet W.S. Merwin, the freshly minted poet laureate of the United States, as the winner of the 2010 Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement.

Merwin will accept the Kenyon Review award at a gala benefit dinner in New York City on Nov. 4 and will visit Kenyon College on Nov. 6 to deliver the keynote address at the fourth annual Kenyon Review Literary Festival.

Merwin received a Kenyon Review Fellowship in 1954 when the journal’s founding editor, John Crowe Ransom, identified him as a young poet of exceptional promise and manifest talent, said David Lynn, Kenyon Review editor and Kenyon professor of English. Merwin has often credited the fellowship with sustaining and encouraging him during the early stages of his career.

“Nearly six decades later Merwin remains exceptional: his work offers extraordinary grace, elegance, simplicity. Its deep wisdom resonates in spare, crystal-pure tones,” Lynn said. “I believe it is only just and fitting that he be honored with the 2010 Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement in the same year that he is honored as Poet Laureate of the United States.”

He is the nation’s 17th poet laureate. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said, “William Merwin’s poems are often profound and, at the same time, accessible to a vast audience.”

Merwin has written more than 30 books of poetry and prose, including “The Carrier of Ladders,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1971, and “The Shadow of Sirius,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2009. A retrospective collection, “Migration: New and Selected Poems,” won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2005. The New York Times has called Merwin “an undisputed master.” He has cultivated an interest in Zen Buddhism and ecology as he has cultivated endangered species of indigenous plants at his home, a former pineapple plantation in Maui, Hawaii.

The Fall 2010 issue of the Kenyon Review will include four new Merwin poems and a personal essay by him on his work developing the palm forest surrounding his home.

The Kenyon Review prize honors careers of extraordinary achievement, recognizing writers whose influence and importance have shaped the American literary landscape. Merwin joins a list of literary luminaries in receiving the award. Previous winners include, in reverse order, Louise Erdrich, Richard Ford, Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Roger Angell and Umberto Eco, Seamus Heaney, Joyce Carol Oates, and E.L. Doctorow, a 1952 Kenyon alumnus.

The literary festival is a four-day celebration of literature, featuring readings, workshops, and a book sale. The festival is preceded by a community-wide reading and discussion program built around one of the author’s works.

Photo of W.S. Merwin by Robin Holland.

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