William Morris Meredith, Jr.

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William Meredith
Born William Morris Meredith, Jr.
(1919-01-09)January 9, 1919
New York City, New York, USA
Died May 30, 2007(2007-05-30) (aged 88)
New London, Connecticut, USA
Occupation Author, poet, professor
Nationality American
Notable awards

National Book Award

Pulitzer Prize
Partner Richard Harteis (1970s–2007)

William Morris Meredith, Jr. (January 9, 1919 – May 30, 2007) was an American poet and educator. He was Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1978 to 1980.[1]


Early years[edit]

Meredith was born in New York City to William Morris Meredith, Sr. and Nelley Keyser. He began writing while a college student at Princeton University where with his first volume of poetry Love Letter from an Impossible Land he was selected by Archibald MacLeish for publication as part of Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton in 1940, writing a senior thesis on Robert Frost.


He worked briefly for the New York Times before joining the United States Navy as a flier. Meredith re-enlisted in the Korean War, receiving two Air Medals.

In 1988 Meredith was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry[2] and a Los Angeles Times Book Award for Partial Accounts: New and Selected Poems and in 1997 he won the National Book Award for Poetry for Effort at Speech.[3][4] Meredith was also awarded a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize, the Carl Sandburg Award, and the International Vaptsarov Prize in Poetry.

From 1964 to 1987 Meredith served as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

From 1978 to 1980, Meredith was Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, the position which in 1985 became the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. He has the distinction of being the first gay poet to receive this honor.

Meredith taught at Princeton University, the University of Hawaii and at Connecticut College from 1955 to 1983. In 1983, he suffered a stroke and was immobilized for two years. As a result of the stroke he suffered with expressive aphasia, which affected his ability to produce language. Meredith ended his teaching career and could not write poetry during this period. He regained many of his language skills after intensive therapy and traveling to Britain for treatment.

A long time admirer of the Irish poet W. B. Yeats, in the summer of 2006 Meredith fulfilled a long-time ambition of visiting Yeats's spiritual homeplace of Sligo, Ireland. While there he also attended the Yeats International Summer School, which attracts many academics and admirers of Yeats to Sligo every summer.

Personal life[edit]

Meredith died in New London, Connecticut, near his home in Montville, where he lived with his partner of 36 years, the poet Richard Harteis.[5][6] A film about his life, Marathon, premiered on November 19, 2008 in Mystic, Connecticut.[7]



  • Love Letter from an Impossible Land, Yale University Press, (1944)
  • Ships and Other Figures (1948)
  • The Open Sea and Other Poems, Knopf, (1957)
  • The Wreck of the Thresher and Other Poems, Knopf, (1964) —finalist for the National Book Award[8]
  • Earth Walk: New and Selected Poems, Knopf, (1970)
  • Hazard the Painter Knopf, (1975) ISBN 978-0-394-49634-4
  • The Cheer, Knopf, (1980)
  • Dreams of Suicide (1980)
  • Partial Accounts: New and Selected Poems, Knopf, (1987) ISBN 978-0-394-75191-7 —winner of the Pulitzer Prize[2]
  • Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems. Northwestern University Press. 1997. ISBN 978-0-8101-5070-6.  —winner of the National Book Award[3]


  • Reasons for Poetry, and The Reason for Criticism (1982)[9]
  • Poems Are Hard to Read, University of Michigan Press, 1991, ISBN 978-0-472-09427-1

Translation and Anthology[edit]

  • Alcools, Guillaume Apollinaire (Translator, 1964)
  • Poets of Bulgaria Unicorn Press, (Editor, 1985) ISBN 978-0-87775-190-8



  1. ^ "Poet Laureate Timeline: 1971–1980". Library of Congress. 2008. Retrieved December 19, 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c "Poetry". Past winners & finalists by category. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved April 8, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c "National Book Awards – 1997". National Book Foundation. Retrieved April 8, 2012.
    (With 1997 award citation, essay by Scott Challener from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog, and "William Meredith, In Memoriam".)
  4. ^ "Pulitzer Prize-winning Connecticut poet dies". Newsday. May 31, 2007. Retrieved June 3, 2007. [dead link]
  5. ^ Elaine Stoll (May 31, 2007). "William M. Meredith, Noted Poet, Dies At 88". TheDay. Retrieved June 3, 2007. 
  6. ^ Fox, Margalit (June 1, 2007). "William Meredith, 88, Poet Who Wed Depth to Form, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved March 29, 2008. 
  7. ^ "Movie honors life of award-winning poet," Norwich Bulletin, November 15, 2008
  8. ^ "National Book Awards – 1965". National Book Foundation. Retrieved April 8, 2012.
  9. ^ William Meredith. "Reasons for poetry". Retrieved June 3, 2007. 

External links[edit]