Saturday, 16 March 2019

RIP W.S. Merwin

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W.S. Merwin 1927-2019, RIP

There is always a certain sadness that befalls you when you hear of a poet's death. The world is quieter somehow, sullen, static, if but for a short space in time. Especially in the case of a poet who is dear to you.

Since discovering W.S. Merwin, I have loved his poetry. He has quite an unique style - that lack of punctuation coupled with language as smooth as silk is always a beguiling combination. His poems are like intricate puzzles of thought and emotion; to decode them, you need simply be open to language's multi-shifting, shimmering nature. If ever poetry can boast of slowing time and making you stop and think, Merwin's poems can surely do that. 

But perhaps The New York Times says it better in their obituary today: "...most reviewers praised his relentless deployment of poetry as a talisman against the void; the emotional ferocity beneath the cool, polished surface of his lines; and his use of language so pure and immediate that it could attain translucence." That it did indeed and now the words remain, aglow. 

I will post some of my favourites of Merwin's poems this week. For now, if you would like to read more, just click on his name in the 'Labels' tags below. The following poem is taken from his 2016 collection 'The Moon Before Morning'. 

Variation on a Theme - W.S. Merwin

Thank you my life long afternoon
late in this spring that has no age
my window above the river
for the woman you led me to
when it was time at last the words
coming to me out of mid-air
that carried me through the clear day
and come even now to find me
for old friends and echoes of them
those mistakes only I could make
homesickness that guides the plovers
from somewhere they had loved before
they knew they loved it to somewhere
they had loved before they saw it
thank you good body hand and eye
and the places and moments known
only to me revisiting
once more complete just as they are
and the morning stars I have seen
and the dogs who are guiding me


  1. Merwin was an exceptionally good reader of poems, aloud. One could hear each pulse, each pause, each heartbeat, each hesitation. I resisted his poetry for a long time because of the non-punctuation, but I am happily having a long second look now! May he rest in peace and light.

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