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Amherst Today Program

Amherst Poets II: James Merrill ’47 and David Ferry ’46

September 22 -23, 2011 at Amherst College

David Sofield, Samuel Williston Professor of English, and Pulitzer-prize winning poet Richard Wilbur ’42, P’73, GP’13, John Woodruff Simpson Lecturer, will lead this day and a half of exploration into the work of David Ferry ’46 and the late James Merrill ’47, two of America’s most honored and renowned poets. Poet Dan Chiasson ’93 will also participate in a reading on Friday.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

8 a.m. – 3 p.m. Check in and pick up packets
Smith House, 22 Hitchcock Road
3:30 p.m. Check-in opens in Converse Lobby
8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Visit Open Classes
Click here to see available classes. Lunch is available in Valentine Dining Hall; tickets for lunch will be in your packet.
4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Welcome Remarks
Betsy Cannon Smith '84
Alumni Secretary/Executive Director of Alumni and Parent Programs

The Poetry of James Merrill ’47
David Sofield, Samuel Williston Professor of English, and Richard Wilbur ’42, P’73, GP’13, John Woodruff Simpson Lecturer, will discuss the poetry of James Merrill ’47 (1926 – 1995). The late James Merrill was recognized as one of the leading poets of his generation. Praised for his stylish elegance, moral sensibilities, and transformation of autobiographical moments into deep and complex meditations, Merrill’s work spans genres—including plays and prose—but the bulk of his artistic expression can be found in his poetry. Over the long course of his career, Merrill won nearly every major literary award in America: he received two National  Book Awards, for Nights and Days (1966) and Mirabell: Books of Numbers (1978); in a banner year he was awarded both the Bollingen Prize in Poetry and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Divine Comedies (1976); his long Ouija-inspired epic The Changing Light at Sandover (1982) won the National Book Critics Circle Award; and he was given the inaugural Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry by the Library of Congress for The Inner Room (1988).
Cole Assembly Room, Converse Hall

6:15 p.m. - 7 p.m.

Reception at the Mead Art Museum
Mead Art Museum

7:15 p.m. Opening Dinner
Lewis Sebring Dining Commons, Valentine Hall

Friday, September 23, 2011

7:30 a.m.  Breakfast
The Weiller Wing, Valentine Dining Commons
9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

The Poetry of David Ferry ’46
David Sofield and Richard Wilbur will discuss the poetry of David Ferry ’46.  In 2001 David Ferry, Sophie Chantal Hart Professor Emeritus of English at Wellesley College, was awarded the prestigious Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize honoring a living U.S. poet whose “lifetime accomplishments warrant extraordinary recognition.”  In 2000, his book of new and selected poems and translations, Of No Country I Know, was given the Lenore Marshall Prize by the Academy of American Poets and the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry by the Library of Congress.  David Ferry is also one of the most honored translators at work today; his present project is Virgil’s Aeneid, following the masterful The Epic of Gilgamesh (1992), The Odes of Horace (1997), and The Eclogues of Virgil (1999).  He is the recipient of the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award and the William Arrowsmith Translation Prize.  His book on Wordsworth, The Limits of Mortality (1959), remains an essential study of the poet.  In 1998 David Ferry was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Pruyne Lecture Hall, Fayerweather Hall

11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. Lunch
The Mezzanine (upstairs), Valentine Dining Commons
2 p.m. - 4 p.m.

Poetry Reading
Dan Chiasson ’93
, David Sofield, David Ferry ’46, and Richard Wilbur ’42 will read selections from their own work and others’.
Pruyne Lecture Hall, Fayerweather Hall
Read  an interview with Dan Chiasson by program participant Josh Jacobs '91 on Josh's blog.

See video of this reading here.

4 p.m.

Closing Reception
Friedmann Room, Keefe Campus Center