April 13, 2013

NPM 2013 - M is for Merwin

Merwin Milosz Milton Moore. And there's probably many many more. But Merwin it is because I respect him, not just for being a great poet but for his love of all things natural. Nature inspires many poets; some take it to a spiritual extreme like Mary Oliver... but W. S. Merwin looms large amongst them. (If interested, like me you can also peek into the book 'From Origin to Ecology: Nature and the Poetry of W. S. Merwin' via Google Books.)

"I imagine the writing of a poem, in whatever mode, still betrays the existence of hope, which is why poetry is more and more chary of the conscious mind in our age." - W. S. Merwin (Notes for a Preface)

Anyways, here then are five poems by W. S. Merwin. (Not 3 but 5 poems today because while it is difficult and impractical (and illogical?) to make top-10 kind of lists when it comes to anything, least of all poetry... but if I was forced to pick just 10 poets to read for the rest of my life, W. S. Merwin would be one of them.)


by W. S. Merwin

Sitting over words
very late I have heard a kind of whispered sighing
not far
like a night wind in pines or like the sea in the dark
the echo of everything that has ever
been spoken
still spinning its one syllable
between the earth and silence


Nocturne II
by W. S. Merwin

August arrives in the dark

we are not even asleep and it is here
with a gust of rain rustling before it
how can it be so late all at once
somewhere the Perseids are falling
toward us already at a speed that would
burn us alive if we could believe it
but in the stillness after the rain ends
nothing is to be heard but the drops falling
one at a time from the tips of the leaves
into the night and I lie in the dark
listening to what I remember
while the night flies on with us into itself.


Another Year Come
by W.S. Merwin

I have nothing new to ask of you,
Future, heaven of the poor.
I am still wearing the same things.

I am still begging the same question
By the same light,
Eating the same stone,

And the hands of the clock still knock without entering.


Still Morning
by W. S. Merwin

It appears now that there is only one
age and it knows
nothing of age as the flying birds know
nothing of the air they are flying through
or of the day that bears them up
through themselves
and I am a child before there are words
arms are holding me up in a shadow
voices murmur in a shadow
as I watch one patch of sunlight moving
across the green carpet
in a building
gone long ago and all the voices
silent and each word they said in that time
silent now
while I go on seeing that patch of sunlight


Rain at Night
by W. S. Merwin

This is what I have heard

at last the wind in December
lashing the old trees with rain
unseen rain racing along the tiles
under the moon
wind rising and falling
wind with many clouds
trees in the night wind

after an age of leaves and feathers
someone dead
thought of this mountain as money
and cut the trees
that were here in the wind
in the rain at night
it is hard to say it
but they cut the sacred 'ohias then
the sacred koas then
the sandalwood and the halas
holding aloft their green fires
and somebody dead turned cattle loose
among the stumps until killing time

but the trees have risen one more time
and the night wind makes them sound
like the sea that is yet unknown
the black clouds race over the moon
the rain is falling on the last place.


I *have* to break my own rule of maximum of 5 poems today to add this very short poem. So terse but breaks your heart...

by W. S. Merwin
Your absence has gone through me  
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

I have to stop here and direct you to go read his poems via the Poetry Foundation website or get his book of poems - the recent Pulitzer Prize winning, The Shadow of Sirius, is as good a place to start as any. (If you read the book, do read an interview Merwin gave to Bill Moyers around that time; I had blogged about it here.)  However, the book I keep going back to again and again is Migration: New & Selected Poems by W.S. Merwin. (There's an old coincidence from 2007 or 2008 about this book and a flight I was on but I won't get into that here but I will direct you to a blog post about this book that I wrote.) You can also read my post about Merwin from the 2011 NPM celebrations. 


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