On July 1, 2010, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced the appointment of W.S. Merwin as the 17th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. On making the appointment, Dr. Billington said:
William Merwin’s poems are often profound and, at the same time, accessible to a vast audience. He leads us upstream from the flow of everyday things in life to half-hidden headwaters of wisdom about life itself. In his poem "Heartland," Merwin seems to suggest that a land of the heart within us might help map the heartland beyond—and that this "map" might be rediscovered in something like a library, where "it survived beyond / what could be known at the time / in its archaic / untaught language / that brings the bees to the rosemary."
In 1999, Dr. Billington appointed Merwin, along with Rita Dove and Louise Glück, Special Consultants in Poetry to assist the then poet laureate Robert Pinsky with the poetry programs of the Library's Bicentennial Year.
Merwin was born in New York City and educated at Princeton University. He has traveled extensively in France, Portugal, and England. He is the author of more than 20 books of poetry. A Mask for Janus, his first book in 1952, was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. His book Migration: Selected Poems 1951-2001 won the National Book Award for poetry in 2005. He has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1971 for his book The Carrier of Ladders, and in 2009 for The Shadow of Sirius. Merwin has also published more than 20 books of translation, numerous plays, and six books of prose. He lives in Hawaii.