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Pulitzers to W.S. Merwin and Elizabeth Strout

The 2009 Pulitzer Prizes were announced Monday afternoon at the Columbia School of Journalism in New York City. The winners in the categories of Letters, Drama, and Music were as follows:
 
The Pulitzer in Poetry went to The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin published by Copper Canyon Press.   This is the second time Merwin, now 81, and a major figure in American poetry since W.H. Auden selected him to receive the Yale Younger Poets Award in 1952, has won the Pulitzer.  His collection The Carrier of Ladders won the award in 1971.  A series of concise but highly evocative poems on the elusive, ineluctable qualities of memory and its centrality to what remains for us in love and art, The Shadow of Sirius has been hailed as the definitive collection of Merwin's later work. 
 

Also nominated as finalists in this category were Watching the Spring Festival by Frank Bidart (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and What Love Comes To: New & Selected Poems by Ruth Stone (Copper Canyon Press).
 
The Pulitzer in Fiction went to Olive Kitteridge written by Elizabeth Strout and published by Random House.  A collection of 13 interwoven short stories set in small-town coastal Maine, the book is notable, among other things, for its central character whose story lends the collection its name: a brusque and overbearing junior high school math teacher in whose missteps in life Strout portrays sympathically, even lovingly.

Strout's most significant previous publications are two novels, Abide with Me (2006) and Amy and Isabelle (1998) a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. 
 
Other finalists for the fiction prize were The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins) and All Souls by Christine Schutt (Harcourt). 
 
The other Pulitzer category winners include:

Drama: Ruined by Lynn Nottage

History: The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed (W.W. Norton & Company)

Biography or Autobiography: American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham (Random House)

General Nonfiction: Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon (Doubleday)

Music: Double Sextet by the composer Steve Reich (Boosey & Hawkes)
 
All Pulitzer Prizes in Letters, Drama, and Music carry a $10,000 cash award.
 
--R.D. Pohl

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