Books by W.S. Merwin

Books by W.S. Merwin
by J. Zimmerman.
* Poetry. * Prose. * Translation. * Anthology.

Books of Poetry by W.S. Merwin

Books of Prose by W.S. Merwin

Books of Translation by W.S. Merwin

Anthology by W.S. Merwin

The Books of Poetry

The Shadow of Sirius (2008)

Buy 'Present Company' Present Company (2005) by W.S. Merwin.

Publisher Copper Canyon Press.

Buy 'Migration' Migration (2005) by W.S. Merwin.

Publisher Copper Canyon Press.

When one can hear Merwin read these poems, one has the double pleasure of hearing his voice and of hearing the cadences that he imposes on his unpunctuated poems. As with many of his books, I must restart several of the poems the first time I read them. Nonetheless ... worth taking time with these poems that presage his leave-taking of the world, first by forgetting and second by not being here.

Among my favorites are "Sonnet" (p.5):

  Where it begins will remain a question  
  for the time being at least ...
  come back I say to it over the waters

and the magical "Marfa Lights" (pp.11-13):

  ... there is no explaining 
  the dark it is only the light 
  that we keep feeling a need to account for  

Other favorites are: "Aliens" (p.25), "Unspoken Greeting" (p.28), "Unknown Bird" (pp.36-37), "First of June" (p.50), "The Fence" (p.73), "Heights" (p.90), "Aliens" (p.25), "Aliens" (p.25), "Aliens" (p.25), "Aliens" (p.25),

Some of these poems were previously published in:

Buy 'The River Sound' The River Sound (1999) by W.S. Merwin.

Buy 'The Folding Cliffs' The Folding Cliffs (1998) by W.S. Merwin.

Travels offers 45 poems in 137 pages (thus averaging the rather large 3 pages per poem). The poems are mostly persona poems. The notes identify six historical figures, including "David Douglas, 1799-1834, Scottish naturalist for whom the Douglas Fir is named, fell into a bull trap on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and was killed by a trapped bull."

One of my favorite poems is "Writing Lives" (p.9-10):

Out of a life it is done
and without ever knowing
how things will turn out

or what a life is for that matter
one way with the words is to tell
the lives of others
using the distance as a lens

and another way
is when there is no distance
so that water
is looking at water
. . .
there is still that light in the water
before sunrise
the untold day

Curiously part of this chimes with something in "After the Spring" (p.137):

faces of water turning into themselves

Other poems have phrases that are recognizably thumbprints of Merwin, and many of of them relate to time, including: "no longer", "come the day", "for by then it was already".

I prefer to hear Merwin read than to read his unpunctuated poems. On the whole Merwin's style of omitting all punctuation works better for his half-page poems than his very long pieces.

Helpful 35-page Introduction by the scholar and Sanskrit expert J. Moussaieff Masson.

Other Books

The First Four Books (2000).

Flower & Hand: Poems, 1977-1983 (1997).

The Vixen (1996).

The Second Four Books (1993). [The Second Four Books of Poems: The Moving Target / The Lice / The Carrier of Ladders / Writings to an Unfinished Accompaniment.]

Selected Poems (1988).

The Rain in the Trees (1988).

The Opening Hand (1983).

Finding the Islands (1982).

The Compass Flower (1977).

Writing to an Unfinished Accompaniment (1973).

Carrier of Ladders (1970). Won Pulitzer Prize.

The Lice (1967).

The Moving Target (1963).

The Drunk in the Furnace (1960).

Green with Beasts (1956).

The Dancing Bears (1954).

A Mask for Janus (1952).

The Books of Translation


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