Gérard C. Louis-Dreyfus, also known as William, was a French-American businessman, philanthropist, poet, art collector, and chairman of the Poetry Society of America from 1998 to 2008. Awarded an M.F.A. from Antioch University, his poems and translations appeared in The New Criterion, Hudson Review, Southwest Review, Plume, AGNI, and Boulevard.
William Louis-Dreyfus was a serious poet and lover of poetry. He died just days after completing his only book of poems, Letters Written and Not Sent. That was his final message to the world.
Born in 1932 on the outskirts of Paris, Louis-Dreyfus came to the United States as a child, after France fell under German occupation. By 1945, he had adopted the name William as a symbol of his integration into American society. With undergraduate and law degrees from Duke University, he led the commodities-focused Louis-Dreyfus Group for over forty years.
His net worth was estimated at $3.4 billion by Forbes in 2006.
In 2012, outraged at the moves to limit and suppress voting in the USA, Dreyfus published a full-page ad in the New York Times calling on the wealthy to donate money to restore democracy: “A Call to Arms to the Wealthy to Protect the Right to Vote.” He donated $1 million to that cause.
During his life, he hosted quite a few literary “salons” in his apartment in New York City, where writers presented their work and discussion eddied. His own poems were largely influenced by his beloved Robert Frost.
Letters Written and Not Sent is the lifetime work of William Louis-Dreyfus, written over decades, culminating in "a passion for poetry, art, and social justice".
Photo credit: Red Hen Press