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William Morris Meredith Jr. (1919–2007) was an influential American poet and educator who served as a Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a position now known as the U.S. Poet Laureate. His literary career was marked by technical mastery, formal innovation, and a deep engagement with the complexities of personal and social identity.

Meredith's literary background reflects a strong foundation in the classical traditions of English poetry, and his work was also informed by modernist sensibilities. He was a skilled practitioner of formal poetic structures, yet his work is characterized by a willingness to explore and sometimes deviate from traditional forms.

In his early career, Meredith was influenced by his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II and the Korean War. His experiences as a pilot informed much of his early poetry, which is marked by a keen awareness of mortality and the human cost of conflict. Later, Meredith's poetry would grapple with themes of love, nature, and the processes of aging and illness, particularly after he suffered a stroke in the 1980s which affected his ability to speak—a challenge he addressed directly in his later work.

Meredith was associated with no single school or movement, though his disciplined use of form and his engagement with contemporary issues aligned him with some of the mid-century American poets who sought to balance tradition with modernity. His work was respected for its craftsmanship, intellectual rigor, and emotional depth.

His poetic oeuvre includes several critically acclaimed collections. "Love Letter from an Impossible Land" (1944) was written during his service in World War II, and "Ships and Other Figures" (1948) continued his exploration of the war's impact. One of his most celebrated volumes, "Partial Accounts: New and Selected Poems" (1987), and "Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems" (1997), reflected his mature poetic voice and won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, respectively.

Themes in Meredith's poetry are wide-ranging but often return to the importance of personal relationships and the individual's place within society and nature. His verse reflects a deep concern for the integrity of the self in a world that can be both beautiful and violent.

As for influence, Meredith's poetry has been lauded for its ethical vision and formal precision. He has influenced many poets with his commitment to craft and his nuanced examination of life's profound questions. His teaching career, including a long tenure at Connecticut College, also allowed him to shape several generations of poets and writers.

Meredith received numerous honors for his work, including the aforementioned Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, showcasing the critical recognition he achieved in his lifetime.

In conclusion, William Meredith's work is a testament to the power of formal poetry to address the most personal and universal aspects of human experience. His precise language and considered formality make his body of work a significant contribution to American letters, notable for its elegance, intellectual depth, and emotional honesty.

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