The Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Illinois now has even more reason to be proud of being the home of William S. Merwin’s papers: on Thursday, July 1, it was announced that William S. Merwin would be named the next poet laureate of the United States. The duties of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress are to foster an appreciation for the reading and writing of poetry in America, to give an annual lecture along with a reading of their poetry and, typically, to introduce poets during the annual poetry series held at the Library of Congress. Merwin has said that he plans to do several readings and to visit schools as part of the fulfillment of this role.
Merwin has written numerous volumes of poetry, translated works from several languages and, in his increasing notability as an environmentalist, dedicated himself to the preservation of native Hawaiian plant species. His archives at Illinois are rich in material that document his activities in these three realms. The collection includes manuscripts of his plays, prose, translations and poems, as well as correspondence and other miscellaneous papers.
We hope that Merwin’s new honor–after having received nearly every other honor possible for a poet–will inspire students and scholars to explore his archive, and enter the mind of an astounding poet, scholar and activist. VH