W.S. Merwin has been named the first recipient of the International Herbert Award, which recognizes outstanding artistic and intellectual literary achievements on the world stage that relates to the values espoused in the work of Zbigniew Herbert. The first award will be presented, along with a check for $50,000, during a ceremony on June 3, 2013, at the Teatr Polski (Polish Theatre) in Warsaw, Poland.
Jury head Edward Hirsch proclaims W.S. Merwin one of the most important American poets of the second half of the 20th century. “He is an artist with a very clear spiritual profile, and intellectual and moral consistency, which encompasses both his work and his life.” says Hirsch, also describing Merwin as, “an avant-garde classicist who is often inspired by classical themes, yet writes poetry that is utterly contemporary, he would seem a very modern incarnation of the prophet…his poetry is filled with images of spiritual questing and pilgrimages, giving them the feel of secular prayers. He is also the most international of the American poets, though the sources behind his work – as in that of Zbigniew Herbert – are both classical and modern…”.
Merwin’s numerous awards include the Pulitzer Prize for poetry (1971 and 2009), The Tanning Prize, bestowed by the Academy of American Poets (1964), and the National Book Award (2005). In 2010 he was the Poet Laureate of the United States of America. He has authored over 60 books and translations, and continues to produce prolifically with the upcoming release of three new works of translation to be released late March, 2013: a compilation of selected translations, a book of haiku by Yosa Buson and a book of the poems and letters of Musō Soseki.
Poet, essayist and playwright, Zbigniew Herbert was born on October 29, 1924, in Lwów, (formerly in Poland, now in present day Lviv, Ukraine) and died on July 28, 1998, in Warsaw, Poland. His work is rooted in the traditions and symbols of Mediterranean civilization, as well as in the European Christian culture that grew from it. Translated into 35 languages, his writings brought him numerous prestigious awards throughout Poland and abroad. Zbigniew Herbert is however best known in world literature thanks to his poetic alter-ego, Mr Cogito (Pan Cogito).