As world cries out, so should poet laureates

As world cries out, so should poet laureates
By Julia Baird
A few days ago, the Guardian in London boldly put out a list of the top 10 American poems. It was sobering reading, largely because only one of the poets is still alive. John Ashbery, a masterly wordsmith, is 83. He was born the same year as the present U.S. poet laureate, whom I am certain only a tiny percentage of us could name.
Can you? Did you know we had one? It’s William Stanley Merwin – a wonderful, if sometimes opaque, poet, who lived in Scranton from the age of 11, but moved to Hawaii in the 1970s. Today he lives on the heights of an old volcano, in a rain forest that was once a pineapple plantation. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009, and once before in 1971, when he donated his prize money to the Vietnam War resistance movement. His poems warn of environmental degradation – “Now we are melting the very poles of the earth,” he wrote recently – and the senselessness of war.
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