Edward Weismiler (1915-2010)
Edward Weismiller (1915-2010) wrote six poetry books and one novel. He also translated one novel. He was the youngest poet to win the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize at the age of 20 for his book The Deer Come Down (1936). He translated a French novel into English at the age of 26. After graduating from Cornell College, earning his master’s degree from Harvard University, and getting his D.Phil from Oxford University (where he had a Rhodes Scholarship), he moved to Washington, DC to study at the Folger Library. Weismiller also taught English at George Washington University; he was quite passionate about instilling a love of words in his students. During WWII, he was recruited to work for the Office of Strategic Services in counterespionage, and thus joined the Marine Corps. He was eventually put in charge of counterespionage in the American Zone in occupied Germany and awarded a Bronze Star as well as the Medaille de la Reconnaissance Francaise. After his service, he was offered a position in the CIA but turned it down in order to focus on writing his novel (which he wrote with the help of a Guggenheim Fellowship). He and other students who had had to leave school because of the war were then invited back to Oxford by the Rhodes Trust, so he earned his doctorate there. He later taught poetry, creative writing, and Milton at Pomona College. In 1979, after The Word Works published his book The Branch of Fire, he was invited to read his poetry at the Library of Congress. He went on to contribute to the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry, edited the Variorum Milton series, and won the 2001 Robert Fitzgerald Award for his lifelong work in metrics and verse. Because of his quality of service in the Marine Corps and the fact that he had been stationed in Europe rather than the South Pacific during WWII, he was invited by the White House to join the 50th anniversary celebrations of V.E. Day on a tour through several European countries. This tour was to honor distinguished WWII veterans from every branch of service. He later advised a literary team who were collaborating to produce an updated version of his translation of a French novel, utilizing new cultural information. Two more of his honors were a Rockefeller Foundation grant and a National Endowment for the Humanities grant. His poetry had a whimsical yet deep feel and often spoke of nature.
Written by Monica Root, December 2013.