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Release: Immediate

Poet W.S. Merwin will read Sept. 21 at UI

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- One of America's major poets, W.S. Merwin, will read from his work at 8 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 21, in Shambaugh Auditorium of the University of Iowa Main Library. The reading, sponsored by the UI Writers' Workshop, is free and open to the public.

The recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for his collection "The Carrier of Ladders," Merwin is a translator as well as a poet. His translations, prose and poetry have attracted attention from literary critics since the publication of his first book "A Mask for Janus," in 1952.

Although the poet's work has undergone many stylistic changes throughout the course of his career, it is described as being unified by the recurring theme of man's separation from nature. Merwin sees the consequences of that alienation as disastrous for the human race.

Eric Hartley says of Merwin in the "Dictionary of Literary Biography": "From the first of his career as a poet, Merwin has steeped himself in other cultures and other literary traditions, and he has been praised as a translator. This eclectic background has given him a sense of the presence of the past, of timelessness in time, that comes across emphatically in his poetry."

According to Vernon Young in "American Poetry," Merwin's works trace to Biblical tales, classical myth, love songs from the age of chivalry, Renaissance retellings and other vernacular forms.

Adrienne Rich said in 1970, "W.S. Merwin has been working more privately, more profoundly and daringly than any other American poet of my generation. . . . Merwin's poems are more open than ever in their account of human loneliness and the miracles of revelation that happen in spite of it. They reach backward and forward as he connects himself with the archaic, the totemic, the legendary, yet exist on the verge of our shattering future. I would be shamelessly jealous of this poetry if I didn't take so much of it into my own life."

Reviewing Merwin's "The Vixen" (1996) in the New Yorker, J.D. McClatchy said, "Merwin has always been a contemplative poet, drawn to the lessons of the natural world and the rigors of unmediated vision. He has also been a romantic poet, heroic in his quest for the depths and intensities, the powers and possibilities of consciousness. Best of all, he has been a surprising poet, continually slipping the bonds of anyone's easy admiration.

Merwin is the author of more than 20 collections of poetry, including "Green with Beasts," "The Lice," "The Drunk in the Furnace," "Opening the Hand," "Finding the Islands," "The Second Four Books of Poems" (which contains "The Lice," "The Carrier of Ladders," "The Moving Target" and "Writings to an Unfinished Accompaniment"), "The Rain in the Trees" and "The Vixen."

In addition to the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, Merwin has received the Bollingen Prize for poetry, a Guggenheim fellowship, the Tanning Prize from the American Academy of Poets and many other honors and awards. A widely respected translator, Merwin has received the PEN translation prize.

Merwin lives in Hawaii, where he has been active in environmental issues. His most recent published collection is "The Vixen."