Tuesday, July 6, 2010

W.S. Merwin is new U.S. Poet Laureate

WS Merwin has been a Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress, Pulitzer Prize winner, translator, memoirist, and poet for over 50 years. As a young man he won a scholarship to Princeton, and after graduation he lived in Europe, which provided him opportunities for translation. He moved to Hawaii in the early 1980s, where he studied Buddhism and restored logged-over forest. He has remained connected to the momentum of US poetics through his prolific writings and tours. I remember meeting him in the early 1980s, when he read with vigor. No one in the audience dozed. I think of Merwin as a poet of conscience. He also has the ability to use the lyric form to wrench his reader emotionally. He sets up oppositions well, as in the beginning stanza of On the Subject of Poetry:

I not understand the world, Father.

By the millpond at the end of the garden

There is a man who slouches listening

To the wheel revolving in the stream, only

There is no wheel there to revolve.

This excerpt also shows how he prompts readers to look beyond the literal to the negative spaces in the picture. Merwin has a politeness in her diction, always, but never is he slack. For the rest of the poem and more on Merwin, see: the Academy of American Poets site: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/123