On July 31, 2000, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced the appointment of Stanley Kunitz to be the Library's 10th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. He took up his duties in the fall of 2000, opening the Library's annual literary series in October with a reading of his work. Mr. Kunitz succeeded Robert Penn Warren, Richard Wilbur, Howard Nemerov, Mark Strand, Joseph Brodsky, Mona Van Duyn, Rita Dove, Robert Hass, and Robert Pinsky.
Kunitz, who occupied the Chair of Poetry at the Library from 1974 through 1976 as Consultant in Poetry (before the title was changed to “Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry” with the passage in 1985 of P.L. 99-194), was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1905. His 10 books of poetry include Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected (W.W. Norton, 1995), which won the National Book Award; Next-to-Last Things: New Poems and Essays (1985); The Poems of Stanley Kunitz, 1928-1978, which won the Pulitzer Prize; The Testing-Tree (1971); and Intellectual Things (1930). He also co-translated Orchard Lamps by Ivan Drach (1978), Story under Full Sail by Andrei Voznesensky (1974), and Poems of Akhmatova (1973); additionally, he edited The Essential Blake (1987) and Poems of John Keats (1964), and served as judge for The Yale Series of Younger Poets (1969-77).
His other honors included the National Medal of the Arts (presented to him by President Clinton in 1993), the Bollingen Prize, a Ford Foundation grant, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, Harvard’s Centennial Medal, the Levinson Prize, the Harriet Monroe Poetry Award, a senior fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Shelley Memorial Award. He was designated State Poet of New York, as well as a Chancellor Emeritus of the Academy of American Poets. A founder of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Poets House in New York City, he taught for many years in the graduate writing program at Columbia University. He lived in New York City and in Provincetown, Massachusetts until his death in 2006.