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Tomorrow Night’s Academy Event Showcases United States Poet Laureate W. S. Merwin

W. S. Merwin, United States Poet Laureate, arrives on campus tomorrow morning to begin a two-day visit with students and faculty.

Tomorrow night’s Academy Event will showcase Mr. Merwin reading his poetry, with a book signing to follow. He will speak to students in the Black Box Theater during the first class period on Thursday morning.

In anticipation of his visit, all students and faculty received a copy of The Rain in the Trees, a collection of his mid-career poetry published in 1988. English teachers agreed to spend class time discussing his poetry.

English Department Chair Mark Ott looked to bring to campus someone who would have an impact on students and create conversation. “[Merwin] is pushing the boundaries of language to challenge the ways we understand the world,” he said.

Zoe Perot ’12, while noting the “remarkable elegance” of Mr. Merwin’s work, also mentioned his unique ability to “form clear images with his words that really stick with the reader.”

After graduating from Princeton in 1948, Mr. Merwin moved to Majorca where he co-wrote a play and tutored. Publishing his first book in 1952, Mr. Merwin continued on to write 28 collections of poetry, eight works of prose, and three plays. He also edited 2 books and has translated 25 other works. A collection of 5,500 archival items and 450 books is stored in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Mr. Merwin’s work focuses on the natural world and its beauty. He has been honored with many awards and is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

Mr. Merwin lived in France and London (where he befriended Sylvia Plath) before moving to Maui, Hawaii in 1976, where he helped replant previously destroyed tropical forests.

“Those life experiences are embodied in his poetry,” said Marly Morgus ’12.

“I think that it will be valuable for students to be able to listen to Merwin and learn from his appreciation for the natural world,” said Spanish teacher Cheri Karbon. “It would remind students to pause and appreciate the natural beauty of the valley, more than we do on an everyday basis.”

“We’re able to make something of his visit…because…we’re reading and talking together,” said English teacher Heather Liske. “In a way, we’re tuning our ear to a sound we’ve never heard.”

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