William Stanley Merwin

William Stanley Merwin Poems

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveller
...

My friends without shields walk on the target

It is late the windows are breaking
...

The cold slope is standing in darkness
But the south of the trees is dry to the touch

The heavy limbs climb into the moonlight bearing feathers
...

4.

Naturally it is night.
Under the overturned lute with its
One string I am going my way
Which has a strange sound.
...

Why did he promise me
that we would build ourselves
an ark all by ourselves
out in back of the house
...

Matches among other things that were not allowed
never would be
lying high in a cool blue box
that opened in other hands and there they all were
...

It is March and black dust falls out of the books
Soon I will be gone
The tall spirit who lodged here has
Left already
...

Gray whale
Now that we are sinding you to The End
That great god
Tell him
...

How long ago the day is
when at last I look at it
with the time it has taken
to be there still in it
...

In a dream I returned to the river of bees
Five orange trees by the bridge and
Beside two mills my house
Into whose courtyard a blind man followed
...

In the evening
all the hours that weren't used
are emptied out
and the beggars are waiting to gather them up
...

When you go away the wind clicks around to the north
The painters work all day but at sundown the paint falls
Showing the black walls
The clock goes back to striking the same hour
...

There in the fringe of trees between
the upper field and the edge of the one
below it that runs above the valley
one time I heard in the early
...

My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand
...

By this part of the century few are left who believe
in the animals for they are not there in the carved parts
of them served on plates and the pleas from the slatted trucks
are sounds of shadows that possess no future
...

What is the head
A. Ash
What are the eyes
A. The wells have fallen in and have
...

17.

At the last minute a word is waiting
not heard that way before and not to be
repeated or ever be remembered
one that always had been a household word
...

When I was beginning to read I imagined
that bridges had something to do with birds
and with what seemed to be cages but I knew
that they were not cages it must have been autumn
...

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

Out of the dry days
through the dusty leaves
far across the valley
those few notes never
...

William Stanley Merwin Biography

William Stanley Merwin (born 30 September 1927 ) is an American poet. He made a name for himself as an anti-war poet during the 1960s. Later, he would evolve toward mythological themes and develop a unique prosody characterized by indirect narration and the absence of punctuation. In the 80s and 90s, Merwin's interest in Buddhist philosophy and deep ecology also influenced his writing. He continues to write prolifically, though he also dedicates significant time to the restoration of rainforests in Hawaii, where he currently resides.

Merwin has received many honors, including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (in both 1971 and 2009) and the Tanning Prize, one of the highest honors bestowed by the Academy of American Poets, as well as the Golden Wreath of the Struga Poetry Evenings.

In 1952 Merwin's first book of poetry, A Mask for Janus, was published in the Yale Younger Poets Series. W. H. Auden selected the work for that distinction. Later, in 1971 Auden and Merwin would exchange harsh words in the pages of The New York Review of Books. Merwin had published "On Being Awarded the Pulitzer Prize" in the June 3, 1971 issue of The New York Review of Books outlining his objections to the Vietnam War and stating that he was donating his prize money to the draft resistance movement. Auden responded in his letter "Saying No" published in the July 1, 1971 issue stating that the Pulitzer Prize jury was not a political body with any ties to the American foreign policy.

From 1956 to 1957 Merwin was also playwright-in-residence at the Poet's Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts; he became poetry editor at The Nation in 1962. Besides being a prolific poet (he has published over fifteen volumes of his works) he is also a respected translator of Spanish, French, Italian and Latin poetry, including Dante's Purgatorio.

Merwin is probably best known for his poetry about the Vietnam War, and can be included among the canon of Vietnam War-era poets which includes such luminaries as Robert Bly, Adrienne Rich, Denise Levertov, Robert Lowell, Allen Ginsberg and Yusef Komunyakaa. In 1998, Merwin wrote Folding Cliffs: A Narrative, an ambitious novel-in-verse about Hawaiian history and legend.

Merwin's early subjects were frequently tied to mythological or legendary themes, while many of the poems featured animals, which were treated as emblems in the manner of William Blake. A volume called The Drunk in the Furnace (1960) marked a change for Merwin, in that he began to write in a much more autobiographical way. The title-poem is about Orpheus, seen as an old drunk. 'Where he gets his spirits / it's a mystery', Merwin writes; 'But the stuff keeps him musical'. Another powerful poem of this period is 'Odysseus', which reworks the traditional theme in a way that plays off poems by Stevens and Graves on the same topic.

In the 1960s Merwin began to experiment boldly with metrical irregularity. His poems became much less tidy and controlled. He played with the forms of indirect narration typical of this period, a self-conscious experimentation explained in an essay called 'On Open Form' (1969). The Lice (1967) and The Carrier of Ladders (1970) remain his most influential volumes. These poems often used legendary subjects (as in 'The Hydra' or 'The Judgment of Paris') to explore highly personal themes.

In Merwin's later volumes, such as The Compass Flower (1977), Opening the Hand (1983), and The Rain in the Trees (1988), one sees him transforming earlier themes in fresh ways, developing an almost Zen-like indirection. His latest poems are densely imagistic, dream-like, and full of praise for the natural world. He has lived in Hawaii since the 1970s, and one sees the influence of this tropical landscape everywhere in the recent poems, though the landscape remains emblematic and personal. Migration (Copper Canyon Press, 2005) won the 2005 National Book Award for poetry. A life-long friend of James Wright, Merwin's elegy to him appears in the 2008 volume From the Other World: Poems in Memory of James Wright.

The Shadow of Sirius, published in 2008 by Copper Canyon Press, was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

The Best Poem Of William Stanley Merwin

For The Anniversary Of My Death

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveller
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

William Stanley Merwin Comments

Kate B 09 June 2007

Where is Separation? ? ! ! !

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