Monday, December 11, 2006

William Meredith at The Academy of American Poets

Five poems have been added to the William Meredith exhibit at The Academy of American Poets. Meredith is one of our finest poets, and a poet who tends to be neglected when the awards go around. You can read his landmark essay "Reasons for Poetry" at the site.

From the site:
According to the poet Edward Hirsch, "[Meredith] has looked generously and hard at our common human world. He doesn't slight the disasterous, the 'umpteen kinds of trouble' he has seen—accountability weighs heavily in his poems—but his work reverberates with old-fashioned terms such as fairness, morale, cheerfulness, joy and happiness."

Meredith's honors include the Loines Award and a grant from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize, the International Vaptsarov Prize in Poetry, a grant and senior fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and two Rockefeller Foundation grants. He was a Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1978 to 1980 and is currently a Chancellor Emeritus of The Academy of American Poets.

Meredith began to suffer from expressive aphasia after a stroke in 1983. This means that he has lost the ability to express himself at will. As the poet Michael Collier explains in his foreword to Meredith's most recent publication, Struggle at Speech (1997): "Trapped, as it were, inside his body, which has profoundly betrayed him, for the past decade and a half Meredith has remained occupied with the poet's struggle—the struggle to speak."

He divides his time between Uncasville, Connecticut and Bulgaria, where he was been granted honorary citizenship, with Richard Harteis, by decree of President Zhelev ini 1996.

You can find much more of Meredith's work at his homepage. Here is one of the poems he hosts at his site:

If the kept secrets of our finished lives
Some day rise up, what a doomsday they will have:
From the numberless houses, deserts, caves
Of its human stay, each whole anatomy
Of the man's affection, and the woman's, each family
Of true deceptions, will be reunited, abler than old bones
To sing, and with more to sing about--a valley
Of buried secrets, rising to claim their own.

'Why were we secret?' one of the true may ask
Among the yawning bodies of affection
That wake on the valley floor. 'Why did I risk
My blood and hair and bones in that deception?'
Or another, more thoughtful secret ask, 'Hence-
forth how will a person relish hate or shame,
Or manage love without its reticence,
And everybody calling things by name?'

But then a voice will silence all who had slept
And the host of the false secrets will tremble
As the names are read of those that were well kept,
Of all with honest reason to dissemble.
All generous and well-intentioned lies,
All expensive silences, will earn eternal silence then,
But all vain secrets will that voice expose
Like the flaming souls of wicked medieval men.
Therefore, my secrets, shades of hate and fear
And love (who outnumbers all the tribes
As, when the names are published, will appear)
Prepare yourselves, so live that when that blast
Of bright exposure rends your flimsy robes
And you stand named and naked at the last,
One judging will say, after your long sleep,
This is my faithful secret, him I will keep.

Please take a minute to stop by the William Meredith page at the Academy of American Poets and his homepage. Meredith is a poet deserving of much more attention than he has received.

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