Thursday, July 01, 2010

W.S. Merwin to Be Named U.S. Poet Laureate


William S. Merwin has been named our next Poet Laureate.

Merwin is a fine poet and craftsman. I was reading a line from a New York Times article that said, "At 18, he sought out the advice of Ezra Pound, who told him to write 75 lines every day. Pound also suggested taking up poetry translation to learn what could be done with language — advice that Mr. Merwin followed." Can you imagine writing 75 lines a day? That's determination.

I wonder what Merwin will bring to the position.


That same article goes on to quote James Billington, the librarian of Congress, who is "confident that Mr. Merwin can broaden the audience for poetry through technology ... ." Really? This from a man who has never typed a poem on a computer (which is implied later in the article).


Personally, I want the person selected as poet laureate to do something with the position. It’s not required that he/she advance or promote poetry, but the service aspect of the laureateship has become more prominent with our more recent laureates.


From the LOC's website:


Each Laureate brings a different emphasis to the position. Joseph Brodsky initiated the idea of providing poetry in airports, supermarkets and hotel rooms. Maxine Kumin started a popular series of poetry workshops for women at the Library of Congress. Gwendolyn Brooks met with elementary school students to encourage them to write poetry. Rita Dove brought together writers to explore the African diaspora through the eyes of its artists. She also championed children's poetry and jazz with poetry events. Robert Hass organized the "Watershed" conference that brought together noted novelists, poets and storytellers to talk about writing, nature and community.


It is my deepest hope that Merwin uses the position somehow for the betterment of poetry rather than see it as just another accolade.

What to you think of the appointment of W.S. Merwin as U.S. Poet Laureate?

6 comments:

Rethabile said...

I like Merwin. I couldn't name one poem by him, yet I know that every poem by him I've read has shaped me. I just remember enjoying poems by him through the years, and rereading them to learn.

January said...

Don't get me wrong, I like Merwin. And I can't name one single poem, either (shame on me).

It's quite an honor to be chosen. I just hope he's a little more public in his role. Not sure how he'll do that from Hawaii but we'll see.

evelyn.n.alfred said...

Never heard of him. Never read any of his work.

I hope he does well to promote poetry.

Rtoe said...

I'll be damned. I never thought that Merwin would have the title. He is a good poet but his Poundianess shows through by the emphasis on craft.

Very good-looking man in his younger days along with his wife which I heard had something to do with their being kidnapped by the bodyguards of the Trungpa Rimpoche and forced to take off their clothes during one of his sojourns at the Naropa Institute.

He's a very good translator as well. I would have picked Robert Bly for a poet in that kind of genre, but no doubt Merwin is safer.

Have any women ever been chosen?

January said...

"Have any women ever been chosen?"

Yes, in fact, our last poet laureate was a woman, Kay Ryan. A few women have served as this top top poetry spot in the last few years.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Jessie Carty said...

I love merwin's writing butbi do wonder what he'll do with the position. I liked how Kay Ryan was a community college teacher and reached out to those schools. It'll be interesting to see if merwin does reach out to a particular segment of the population or start a new project.

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