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American Poet Hilda Morley Dies

March 27, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ Hilda Morley, an American poet whose career bloomed in the last two decades of her life, has died at age 81.

Morley died Monday at a London hospital of liver failure after a fall, according to her publisher, Moyer Bell of Wakefield, R.I.

Her first published collection, ``A Blessing Outside Us,″ appeared in 1976. ``What are Winds and What are Waters,″ a sequence of poems about her years with her second husband, followed in 1983.

Three more books came after that, the last of which, ``The Turning,″ is scheduled for publication next month.

Morley found her artistic inspiration in abstract expressionism, which she said saved her ``from a retreat into the formal tendencies of past centuries.″

``From the abstract expressionists I discovered a way of seeing the modern world in its totality, finding meaning in what was defaced, injured, disheveled, torn, eroded and disfigured ... To transform or transmute these elements, but still to embody them, was my task as poet,″ she said.

She was born Hilda Auerbach in New York City to Russian emigre parents, and educated in New York, Haifa in what was then Palestine, London and Wellesley College.

She taught at New York University, Rutgers and at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where she was a professor of Hebrew and 17th-century English literature.

Morley’s 1945 marriage to the painter Eugene Morley soon ended in divorce.

She met Stefan Wolpe, a German avant-garde composer, in 1948 when she translated his ``Songs from the Hebrew,″ and they were married in 1952.

After Wolpe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 10 years later, Morley, who had been writing poetry since childhood, began to devote more time to verse while nursing her husband.

``For Stefan 26 Months Later″ is one of the poems inspired by her long care for her husband, who died in 1972:

To take off for distant

places,

your true-love dying

in your arms,

or failing

that,

to die together

with him

That could be

a solution.

But I have done neither,

who wish only

to see you sitting with me

at a table & a red-and-white

tablecloth between us.

nothing more

One of her poems, ``It Is the Living,″ was included in ``100 Great Poems by Women,″ edited by Carolyn Kizer.

``Her poems often begin with a stated thing, such as a physical object, like a postcard; but then she will move far from the initial scene, and drift toward inwardness,″ Mark Rudman wrote in the spring 1996 edition of American Poet.

Morley received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1983, the Capricorn Prize for her 1984 collection ``To Hold in my Hand: Selected Poems 1955-83,″ the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry in 1989 the Fund for Poetry award in 1989 and 1993, and a Senior Fellowship in Poetry at Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center in 1996.

She lived in Sag Harbor, New York, for many years, but moved to London last year.

She is survived by a stepdaughter, Katharina Wolpe.

Funeral arrangements were not announced.