(1927- ) US poet and translator, frequently resident in Europe. WSM's first collection of poems, A Mask for Janus (coll 1952; later coll in The First Four Books of Poems omni 1975), shows his attraction to what W H Auden (1907-1973) called WSM's "mythological" sensibility: classical figures, animals (especially Birds) and Mythical Creatures populate a formal and meditative but deeply impersonal verse. For The Carrier of Ladders (coll 1970) he won a Pulitzer Prize. But his major interest as a fabulist lies in his imaginative prose, published as The Miner's Pale Children (coll 1970) and Houses and Travelers (coll 1977). These short pieces, mostly 1-5 pages long, occasionally contain elements of sf and seem sometimes to approach Borgesian fantasy ("The Animal who Eats Numbers", "The Camel Moth"), but their carefully modulated evocations of strangeness are more ontological than dramatic. WSM's later volume of three long novellas, The Lost Upland (coll 1992), set in the peasant farmlands of southern France, eschews fantasy.
WSM's fantasies, although notable, belong finally more to the realm of poetry than to that of fiction. [GF]
William Stanley Merwin