W.S. Merwin lived and studied poetry in southern France during the 1950s. There, his home there was on the grounds of the ruins of the castle once occuppied by the legendary bard, Bernartz de Ventadorn. The setting helped him become enchanted by the language of the Troubadours, poet-musicians from 800 years before. It was Ezra Pound who advised Merwin to "read the seeds, not the twigs of poetry," and Merwin studied the Troubadours to learn about poetry from its source, in a language older than French.
NPR's Renee Montagne recently spoke with Merwin about his new memoir, The Mays of Ventadorn, about his time in the French countryside, chronicled in a book for the National Geographic "Directions" series. "Directions" is a collection of literary travel books, allowing readers to accompany authors on trips without ever leaving home.
W.S. Merwin was born in New York City in 1927. He has written more than 15 books, including poetry, prose and translations. Winner of the 1971 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his work The Carrier of Ladders, he has received many other awards including the Governor's Award for Literature of the state of Hawaii and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.