Tiger of the Week: W.S. Merwin ’48

Poetry will be in the spotlight at Princeton next week, as the University welcomes Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney and a dozen other prominent poets for the first Princeton Poetry Festival, April 27 and 28. So it is fitting that our Tiger of the Week, W.S. Merwin ’48, is a distinguished man of letters. On April 20, Merwin won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for The Shadow of Sirius (Copper Canyon Press), a collection of what the award citation called "luminous, often tender poems that focus on the profound power of memory." Merwin also won a Pulitzer in 1971 for The Carrier of Ladders.

As an undergraduate, Merwin was influenced by two notable English professors: highly regarded literary critic R.P. Blackmur and poet John Berryman. Merwin wrote about his Princeton mentors in his 2005 memoir, Summer Doors. While Berryman was a merciless editor, his exhaustive knowledge of poetry made an impression on the young Merwin. But Blackmur, who famously rose to prominence in the academy without the benefit of a college degree, offered the most memorable advice: "A good education," he told Merwin, "won't do you any harm."

(Photo courtesy Pulitzer.org/Mark Hanauer)

Do you have a nominee for Tiger of the Week? Let us know. All alumni qualify. PAW's Tiger of the Week is selected by our staff, with help from readers like you.