David Ferry, the Sophie Chantal Hart Professor Emeritus of English at Wellesley Has Authored Eight Collections of Poetry and Translation

November 16, 2012

The National Book Foundation has presented its prestigious National Book Award for Poetry to David Ferry for his collection, Bewilderment. Finalists for the award were Heavenly Bodies by Cynthia Huntington, Fast Animal by Tim Seibles, Night of the Republic by Alan Shapiro, and Meme by Susan Wheeler.

Ferry is the Sophie Chantal Hart Professor Emeritus of English at Wellesley College, where he taught from 1952 to 1989. Among many other honors throughout his career, he was made a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 1989, and last year he was awarded the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement.
The National Book Foundation says of Ferry's award-winning book:
To read David Ferry’s Bewilderment is to be reminded that poetry of the highest order can be made by the subtlest of means. The passionate nature and originality of Ferry’s prosodic daring works astonishing transformations that take your breath away. In poem after poem, his diction modulates beautifully between plainspoken high eloquence and colloquial vigor, making his distinctive speech one of the most interesting and ravishing achievements of the past half century. Ferry’s translations, meanwhile, are amazingly acclimated English poems. Once his voice takes hold of them they are as bred in the bone as all his other work. And the translations in this book are vitally related to the original poems around them.
According to the Washington Post, the 88-year-old Ferry fought back tears as he accepted the honor, and charmingly called it a "pre-posthumous" award. You can read selections of his poetry and learn more about Ferry and the National Book Award at the National Book Foundation website.