Washington state

Port Townsend publisher home of Pulitzer winner

A small, nonprofit publishing house in Port Townsend is now the home of two Pulitzer Prize-winning authors.

Monday’s announcement that W.S. Merwin won the 2009 Pulitzer for poetry marked the second time that an author published by Copper Canyon Press has won one of literature’s prestigious awards. Merwin won for “The Shadow of Sirius.”

In 2005, Ted Kooser won the poetry Pulitzer for “Delights & Shadows.”

The publishing house is also home to one of the poetry finalists this year, Ruth Stone’s “What Love Comes To: New & Selected Poems.”

“We’re really proud of having two of the three books that are chosen, with Copper Canyon Press titles, it’s really an honor,” said Denise Banker, the publicist for the publishing house. “When a small press like us wins a Pulitzer, it helps us with fundraising.”

As a nonprofit, Copper Canyon Press relies on donations and grants to maintain its operation. The publishing house, founded in 1972, employs seven full-time workers, two part timers and dozens of volunteers. Copper Canyon publishes between 16 and 20 books a year, said Michael Wiegers, the publisher’s executive editor.

The publishing house is in Fort Worden, an 19th century military fort that was turned into a state park.

Merwin, an 81-year-old poet from New York, said that Copper Canyon’s sole focus on poetry was one of the reasons he went to the small publisher.

“I liked the way Copper Canyon approached the whole thing,” he said from his home in Hawaii. “Their emphasis is entirely poetry. If you’re with one of the big publishing houses, the books are beautiful, but it’s not their main thing.”

This year’s prize marked the second time Merwin had been honored with a Pulitzer. In 1971, he won for “The Carrier of Ladders” and refused to accept the prize money in protest of the Vietnam War.

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