Raised in Pittsfield, educated at Middlebury, for decades now rooted in Williamstown, you seem to have an odd fetish for Route 7. From this meridian, however, you have cast your eye across the world, seeing within its everyday details deep mystery. In free verse, always measured and sometimes humorous, you have explored the extraordinary in the ordinary, with what Billy Collins has called your “rare knack of being perfectly clear and complex at the same time.” Your work has earned wide publication, including in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The Paris Review; in your own compilations; and in several editions of Best American Poetry. It has won prizes from the Academy of American Poets and the National Poetry Series. Your work in the classroom has been based, you have said, on legendary teacher Mark Hopkins’ tenet that “education is a system of excitement.” Lucky the many students who have come awake, at your prodding, to the thrill of discovering the power of detail in both life and craft. Your writing often asks how life would have differed with different choices, leaving us grateful that your own choices left you (Or is it brought you?) close to home.
I hereby declare you Harry C. Payne Professor of Poetry, Emeritus, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining thereto.
June 3, 2018