W. S. Merwin – american poet laureate of the first edition of The Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award
William Stanley Merwin, American poet and translator, was born in New York on September 30 1927.
Merwin is the most cosmopolitan of American poets. He completed his studies at Princeton University, and subsequently lived in Spain, England and France, where he fell in love with Provencal culture and the troubadour tradition. He moved to Hawaii towards the end of the 1970s. He lives on Maui and works closely with ecology movements committed to restoring the rainforests. His book-length poem, “The Folding Cliffs” (1998), is dedicated to Hawaii’s mythology and history.
Merwin is a remarkably prolific writer, who has published more than 50 books. His first volume, “A Mask for Janus” (1952) was chosen by W.H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Award. He is an avant-garde classicist, who is often inspired by classical themes, and yet writes a poetry that is utterly contemporary. He has always been involved in social causes. In the 1960s he became one of the most well known poets opposed to the Vietnam War. His great books from that period are “The Lice” (1967), and “The Carrier of Ladders” (1970). His later poems, connected to Zen Buddhism, show his deep commitment to ecology. They often praise nature and the beauty of the visible world.
Merwin is one of the most distinguished translators in contemporary poetry. He has published three volumes of Selected Translations. He has translated, amongst other things, “The Cid”, the “Song of Roland”, Dante’s “Purgatory”, and key works by Osip Mandelshtam and Pablo Neruda.
His numerous awards include the Pulitzer Prize for poetry (1971 and 2009), The Tanning Prize, bestowed by the Academy of American Poets (1964), and the National Book Award (2005). In 2010 he was the Poet Laureate of the United States of America.
The first Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award will be presented during a ceremony on June 3 2013, at the Teatr Polski (Polish Theatre) in Warsaw, Poland.