Tracy K. Smith, Professor of Creative Writing in Princeton University’s Program in Creative Writing has received The Academy of American Poets 2014 Fellowship Award, and Princeton alumnus W. S. Merwin’s Selected Translations has won the Academy’s Harold Morton Landon Translation Award.
The Fellowship Award to Smith was established in 1936 and given in memory of James Ingram Merrill and recognizes distinguished poetic achievement; the award carries a stipend of $25,000. Fellows are nominated and elected by a majority vote of the Academy’s Board of Chancellors. Past recipients include Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Frost, and Ezra Pound.
Smith’s most recent collection of poems, Life on Mars (Graywolf Press, 2011), won the Pulitzer Prize. Her other honors include the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a Rona Jaffe Writers Award, and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship. She resides in Princeton.
“The surfaces of a Tracy K. Smith poem are beautiful and serene, but underneath, there is always a sense of an unknown vastness,” noted Academy of American Poets Chancellor Toi Derricotte when announcing the award. “Her poems take the risk of inviting us to imagine, as the poet does, what it is to travel in another person’s shoes. The Academy is fortunate to be able to confer this fitting recognition on one of the most important poets of our time.”
Smith teaches beginning and advanced poetry in Princeton’s Creative Writing Program. These undergraduate writing workshops of no more than 10 students are taught by some of the nation’s most celebrated writers. Smith’s faculty colleagues include Jeffrey Eugenides, Chang-rae Lee, Paul Muldoon, Joyce Carol Oates, James Richardson, Susan Wheeler, and Edmund White. Each year these faculty members also work individually with 20 to 30 seniors on a creative writing thesis, such as a novel, screenplay, or a collection of short stories, poems, or translations.
The award to Merwin was founded in 1976 and recognizes a published translation of poetry from any language into English that demonstrates literary excellence. This year’s judge was David Hinton.
Merwin is the author of over thirty books of poetry and more than twenty books of translation. He served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2010 to 2011. His other honors include two Pulitzer Prizes, a National Book Award, the Wallace Stevens Award, the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Bollingen Prize, and the Lannan Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement. He is a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
“W. S. Merwin’s art is ravenous, and this award celebrates that hunger,” noted Hinton. “To translate is to inhabit another voice, which in turn enlarges one’s horizons as a writer; and Merwin’s huge Selected Translations represents a lifetime spent doing just that: feeding his own art with other voices. The book is a museum of world poetry, collecting artifacts from a vast range of cultures and times. This year, in addition to the Selected Translations, Merwin also published a voluminous translation from one of Japan’s greatest classical poets, a major addition to his world-poetry museum: Collected Haiku of Yosa Buson. And so continues Merwin’s lifelong gift to our hunger for other voices.”