July 01, 2010
Yesterday, the US Library of Congress named W.S. Merwin as the country's Poet Laureate. Merwin, who moved to Hawaii in 1976 to study Zen with Robert Aitken, is a longtime Buddhist and a prolific writer. His appointment is timely: As a nature writer and an environmental activist, Merwin has the power to call attention to America's wars and the devastation of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The New York Times reports:
Mr. Merwin’s appointment is potentially inspired. He is an exacting nature poet, a fierce critic of the ecological damage humans have wrought. Helen Vendler, writing last year in The New York Review of Books, called him “the prophet of a denuded planet." With the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico becoming more dread and apocalyptic by the hour, Mr. Merwin may be a poet we’ll need. The pacifist in him may brood over the long war in Afghanistan.
The Poet Laureate is appointed by the government and is expected to work towards cultivating a national appreciation for the pursuit of reading and writing poetry. Despite his reclusiveness, Merwin is well suited to the task; he has published over 30 books over the course of his long career and is the recipient of two Pulitzer Prizes and the National Book Award.
To read more about W. S. Merwin and his appointment, click here.