William Meredith Centennial
On January 9, 2019 William Meredith will have been 100 years old. Too often, when the great ones die, they simply fall off the planet, but the foundation named for him will continue to carry on Meredith's legacy in American culture through educational programs and the publication of an annual poetry prize in his name. Throughout the year, we will host a series of important poetry events and establish an award for translation in honor of William's translator, Valentin Krustev. We also plan to launch a 2019 memorial calendar featuring archival photos from the Mystic Seaport with William’s poems superimposed on the images. The work on this beautiful calendar is well under way, and only requires funding now to go into production. These calendars will be offered as a gift to sponsors and any profits will go to supporting the activities of the foundation. Our deadline for completion is September 1, 2018. (We are a 501.c3 non profit and any contribution is fully tax deductible.)
William served as a naval aviator in WWII and the Korean Conflict, was a beloved teacher at Connecticut College for nearly four decades and served as US Poet Laureate at the Library of Congress from 1979-81. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and the National Book Award, all of which came after the challenges of a major stroke. His work has received many additional American and international awards including numerous honorary Ph.D's. He has served as Chancellor and Director of the Academy of American Poetry. In 1996, he was accorded Bulgarian citizenship by President Zhelu Zhelev for the bridge he created between our two countries' artists.
His has been an extraordinary life and it is our great hope that friends and lovers of poetry will join in celebrating this great American spirit. A short poem by Meredith perhaps summarizes the man and his philosophy best:
A Major Work
Poems are hard to read
Pictures are hard to see
Music is hard to hear
And people are hard to love.
But whether from brute need
Or diving energy.
At last, mind eye and ear
And the great sloth heart will move.
USEFUL LINKS TO MEREDITH’S LIFE AND WORK
AND THAT OF THE FOUNDATION
Governor's Award for Lifetime Achievement:
Bulgarian National TV account of travel to Rila Monastery in Bulgaria with Meredith’s ashes:
Meredith Foundation film describing its work:
Original Ballet production at William’s home:
Drunken Boat- In depth feature article on Meredith in a fine on-line literary magazine:
Connecticut College webpage with full accounting of his life, works, etc.
William reading his poem,"Crossing Over" circa 1964:
Meredith page from the Academy of American Poets:
The Poetry Foundation page on Meredith:
Wikipedia page for Meredith:
YouTube account of First Meredith Award for Poetry
given to David Fisher:
YouTube clip of Gray Jacobik reading from her 2016 William Meredith Award winning book, THE BANQUET:
William Meredith reading his poem "Parents":
A Centennial Celebration of William Meredith: His Legacy of Writing at Connecticut College.”
Thursday, April 11 4:30 -Friday April 12, 2019 all day, Charles Chu room, open to all. This celebration of William Meredith's legacy will include poetry and fiction readings by alumni writers, writing workshops by alumni writers, and a exhibit of items from the William Meredith archive and books by alumni authors.
Going abruptly into a starry night
It is ignorance we blink from, dark, unhoused; There is a gaze of animal delight
Before the human vision. Then, aroused
To nebulous danger, we may look for easy stars, Orion and the Dipper; but they are not ours, These learned fields. Dark and ignorant, Unable to see here what our forebears saw,
We keep some fear of random firmament Vestigial in us. And we think, Ah,
If I had lived then, when these stories were made up, I Could have found more likely pictures in haphazard sky.
But this is not so. Indeed, we have proved fools When it comes to myths and images. A few
Old bestiaries, pantheons and tools Translated to the heavens years ago— Scales and hunter, goat and horologe—are all
That save us when, time and again, our systems fall. And what would we do, given a fresh sky
And our dearth of image? Our fears, our few beliefs Do not have shapes. They are like that astral way We have called milky, vague stars and star-reefs That were shapeless even to the fecund eye of myth— Surely these are no forms to start a zodiac with.
To keep the sky free of luxurious shapes Is an occupation for most of us, the mind
Free of luxurious thoughts. If we choose to escape, What venial constellations will unwind
Around a point of light, and then cannot be found
Another night or by another man or from other ground. As for me, I would find faces there,
Or perhaps one face I have long taken for guide; Far-fetched, maybe, like Cygnus, but as fair, And a constellation anyone could read
Once it was pointed out; an enlightenment of night, The way the pronoun you will turn dark verses bright.
We note with great sadness the passing of Dick Allen, who died of a heart attack on Christmas Day, 2017. Dick Allen gave his inaugural reading as Poet Laureate of Connecticut in a reading sponsored by the Meredith Foundation at the Hygienic Gallery in New London. He wrote in a poem once,
“No one else, in all America,
quotes William Meredith verbatim,
cites Lowell over ham and eggs, and Levertov”
Like a Bodhisattva, he brought joy, clarity and compassion to his poetry and always gave a hand up to aspiring poets. In the Hartford Courant obituary
( http://www.courant.com/entertainment/arts-theater/hc-obit-dick-allen-poet-1228-story.html )
you can click on a link to hear him read “A Simple, Solemn Tribute to Sandy Hook Victims.” The last lines of the poem are certainly fitting for this very beautiful soul.
No voice once heard is ever lost.