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W S Merwin Biography | Poet

Photo of W S Merwin

In the world of poetry, there are names that resonate deeply, leaving an indelible mark on the minds of readers. One such name is W.S. Merwin, a poet whose words have captivated audiences with their power and beauty. But who was W.S. Merwin, the man behind these extraordinary words? In this article, we will embark on a journey to delve into the life and poetry of W.S. Merwin, uncovering the story of a remarkable individual whose impact on the literary world is truly unparalleled. Discover the biography of W.S. Merwin, and explore the essence of the poetic genius that continues to inspire generations.

Early Life and Education

W.S. Merwin was born on September 30, 1927, in New York City. His father was a Presbyterian minister, and his mother was a teacher. Merwin spent his childhood in Union City, New Jersey, and Scranton, Pennsylvania. He attended Princeton University, where he studied under the renowned poet John Berryman. It was during this time that Merwin began to develop his unique poetic style, which would later become his trademark.

Influences and Style

Merwin's early influences included the works of William Butler Yeats, Robert Frost, and Wallace Stevens. However, it was the works of the French symbolist poets that had the most significant impact on his writing. Merwin's style is characterized by its simplicity and clarity, with a focus on nature and the human experience. He often used sparse language and avoided punctuation, allowing the reader to interpret the meaning of his words.

Career and Achievements

Merwin's first collection of poetry, "A Mask for Janus," was published in 1952. He went on to publish over 30 collections of poetry, including "The Lice" (1967), "The Carrier of Ladders" (1970), and "The Shadow of Sirius" (2008). His works have won numerous awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry, the National Book Award, and the Tanning Prize for Mastery in Poetry.

Merwin was also known for his translations of works by other poets, including Pablo Neruda and Dante Alighieri. He was a prolific writer, and his works have been translated into over 20 languages.

Environmental Activism

In addition to his contributions to the world of poetry, Merwin was also a passionate environmental activist. He and his wife, Paula, purchased a former pineapple plantation in Hawaii in the 1970s and spent the rest of their lives restoring the land to its natural state. Merwin's love for nature and the environment is evident in his poetry, and he often used his platform to raise awareness about environmental issues.

Legacy and Impact

W.S. Merwin's impact on the world of poetry is immeasurable. His unique style and powerful words have inspired countless poets and readers. He was also a mentor to many young poets, including Louise Glück and Jorie Graham. Merwin's works continue to be studied and celebrated, and his legacy lives on through his poetry.

Awards and Honors

Merwin's contributions to the world of poetry have been recognized with numerous awards and honors. In addition to his Pulitzer Prizes and National Book Award, he was also named the United States Poet Laureate in 2010 and received the Golden Wreath of the Struga Poetry Evenings in 1993.

Influence on Modern Poetry

Merwin's unique style and approach to poetry have had a significant impact on modern poetry. His use of sparse language and focus on nature and the human experience have inspired many poets to experiment with their own writing styles. Merwin's works continue to be studied and analyzed, and his influence on modern poetry is undeniable.

Famous Poems

W.S. Merwin was a highly acclaimed poet known for his beautiful and thought-provoking poems. Some of his most famous poems include:

  1. "For the Anniversary of My Death" - In this poem, Merwin reflects on the idea of mortality and the passage of time.
  2. "To the Light of September" - Merwin contemplates the changing seasons and the fleeting moments of life in this poignant poem.
  3. "Elegy for a Walnut Tree" - In this poem, Merwin mourns the loss of a walnut tree that had been a part of his life for many years, reflecting on the connections between humans and the natural world.
  4. "The Present" - Merwin explores the concept of the present moment and the importance of being fully present in our lives.

These are just a few examples of W.S. Merwin's famous poems. His body of work is vast and includes many other notable pieces that have touched the hearts and minds of readers around the world.

The Man Behind the Words

While W.S. Merwin's poetry may have made him famous, there was much more to the man than his words. He was known for his humility and kindness, and his love for nature and the environment was evident in everything he did. Merwin was also a dedicated mentor and teacher, and his impact on the lives of his students and fellow poets cannot be overstated.

Personal Life

Merwin married Paula Schwartz in 1983, and the couple spent the rest of their lives together on their Hawaiian plantation. They were both passionate about environmental conservation and worked tirelessly to restore the land to its natural state. Merwin's love for nature and the environment is evident in his poetry, and his dedication to preserving the land is a testament to his character.

Death and Legacy

W.S. Merwin passed away on March 15, 2019, at the age of 91. His death was mourned by the literary community, and tributes poured in from poets and readers around the world. Merwin's legacy lives on through his poetry, and his impact on the world of literature will never be forgotten.


W.S. Merwin was a man of many talents, but it was his poetry that made him a household name. His unique style and powerful words continue to inspire poets and readers alike, and his impact on the world of poetry is immeasurable. But beyond his literary achievements, Merwin was a kind and humble man who dedicated his life to preserving the environment and mentoring young poets. His legacy will continue to live on through his poetry, and his words will continue to inspire generations to come.

W S Merwin: Poems | Best Poems | Short Poems | Quotes

Book: Shattered Sighs