Corinne Segal in Literary Hub:
As a student at Princeton, Merwin studied under John Berryman and R. P. Blackmur. After graduating in 1948, his travels would take him through Europe before he landed in the south of France. Michael Wiegers described the beginning of his time there for Literary Hub:
Nearly 70 years ago WS Merwin, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and translator, was exploring the south of France when he came across a derelict stone farmhouse in the Midi Pyrenees region between Toulouse and Bordeaux. The rustic building, which was being used for drying tobacco, caught his attention less for its condition than for its location perched high above the Dordogne river, with views to the north and west across the broad valley below. This building and its surroundings would significantly influence his writing—and by extension much of American poetry—for decades to come.
His first published collection, A Mask for Janus (1952), was chosen by W.H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets award, even as some looked at his early work with skepticism; his verse, dense and inspired by classical forms, was seen as inaccessible. He would later draw Auden’s disapproval for donating his winnings from the 1971 Pulitzer Prize, for his book The Carrier of Ladders, to antiwar causes, a move that Auden criticized as a “personal publicity stunt.”