William Meredith born 9 January 1919 (d. 2007)
William Morris Meredith, Jr. was an American poet. He graduated from with an AB from Princeton University in 1940 . He has held professorships at Princeton University, University of Hawaii, and Connecticut College.
Born in New York City, Meredith attended a Massachusetts boarding school, then Princeton, where he wrote a senior thesis on the poetry of Robert Frost, a lasting influence. After a brief spell as a journalist on The New York Times, Meredith enlisted in the US Army in 1941, where he trained as a pilot, then moved to the Navy, where he served as a carrier pilot in the Aleutian Islands and then in the Pacific campaigns.
He was writing poems throughout and his first book, Love Letter from an Impossible Land, appeared in 1944 as a volume in the Yale Younger Poets series, selected by Archibald Macleish.
After the war Meredith taught at Princeton as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and then at the University of Hawaii before re-enlisting in the Navy to serve in Korea. A second collection, Ships and other Figures, appeared in 1948, and included several more poems about his war experiences, but it was with his next collection, The Open Sea and Other Poems (1958), that he began to find his own voice.
The greater ambition of this new work carried over into his next book, The Wreck of the Thresher (1963), where the title poem (arguably his most famous) contemplates the horrific death by drowning of the entire 129-member crew of a US submarine off the New England coast.
By now Meredith was firmly ensconced at Connecticut College, where he taught for over 30 years, eventually becoming a professor of English (he received an honorary doctorate in 1988). It was a good base for forays into New York, but allowed him to live in a country setting.
After suffering a stroke in 1983, Meredith resigned from Connecticut College and for several years was unable to write, suffering badly from expressive aphasia. After intensive therapy he gradually began to write again, with difficulty. Yet in 1997 he issued a final collection of poems called Effort at Speech.
Meredith wrote deliberately publishing 12 volumes of poetry in all. Between 1978 and 1980, he served as the consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress commonly known as the poet laureate.
In 1988, he won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Partial Accounts: New and Selected Poems and the National Book Award in 1997 for Effort at Speech.
Meredith died on 31 May 2007 in New London, Connecticut, near his home in Montville, where he lived with his partner of 36 years, Richard Harteis.
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