Remember This

W. S. Merwin, a formidable American poet who for more than 60 years labored under a formidable poetic yoke: the imperative of using language — an inescapably concrete presence on the printed page — to conjure absence, silence and nothingness, died on Friday…He was 91.

“It is as though the voice filters up to the reader like echoes from a very deep well, and yet it strikes his ear with a raw energy,” the poet and critic Laurence Lieberman wrote… He added: “The poems must be read very slowly, since most of their uncanny power is hidden in overtones that must be listened for in silences between lines, and still stranger silences within lines.”

W.S. Merwin, “Black Cherries”:

Late in May as the light lengthens
toward summer the young goldfinches
flutter down through the day for the first time
to find themselves among fallen petals
cradling their day’s colors in the day’s shadows
of the garden beside the old house
after a cold spring with no rain
not a sound comes from the empty village
as I stand eating the black cherries
from the loaded branches above me
saying to myself Remember this

W.S. Merwin, from “To Paula in Late Spring”:

Let me imagine that we will come again
when we want to and it will be spring
we will be no older than we ever were
the worn griefs will have eased like the early cloud
through which the morning slowly comes to itself…
the light will be as it is now in the garden
that we have made here these years together
of our long evenings and astonishment

~ Margalit Fox, from “W.S. Merwin, Poet of Life’s Evanescence, Dies at 91″ (NY Times, March 15, 2019)


Notes:

  • W.S. Merwin Photo by Nancy Carrick Holbert 01/14/1969
  • W.S. Merwin biography
  • The Atlantic Monthly: “The intentions of Merwin’s poetry are as broad as the biosphere yet as intimate as a whisper. He conveys in the sweet simplicity of grounded language a sense of the self where it belongs, floating between heaven, earth, and the underground.

 

 

Comments

  1. ‘…cradling their day’s colors…’ such a visual!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it is in Virginia, that place
      That lies across the eye of my mind now
      Like a gray blade set to the moon’s roundness,
      Like a plain of glass touching all there is. …
      My father never plowed there, nor my mother …
      But you would think the fields were something
      To me, so long I stare out, looking
      For their shapes or shadows through the matted gleam, seeing
      Neither what is nor what was, but the flat light rising.

      ~ W.S. Merwin, from “Low Fields and Light” which appeared in the New Yorker on November 5, 1955 (via The Washington Post, March 15, 2019)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I didn’t know he was still alive. Love his poetry!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful poems and yes so much rhythm and imaginative words of reality. Awesome.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. these are beautiful and i hadn’t heard of him before. thank you for sharing this. my favorite line: “saying to myself Remember this.”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Such a beautiful way to start the day, DK. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Was introduced to Merwin as a freshman in college and have been under his spell ever since.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Being the big Ignorant here, first thing I did was doing a YT search. Found this wonderful time document:

    (hope it comes out alright, I’m not a tech wizzard)……
    The intentions of Merwin’s poetry are as broad as the biosphere yet as intimate as a whisper. This sentence ….. and the one Rosanne ment. too….
    His voice, really something to behold! Thank You. You enriched my day with this post.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. My morning is more still. The silence deeper. The sunrise yet to come more promising.

    Thank you for colouring my morning with his beautiful poetry.

    I am grateful his words remain behind.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This usually happens on the weekends when you post-a-post so phenomenal yet emotionally charged with being-me-to-my-knees words that quiet cadenced sobs and tears flow like unpunctuated sentences.

    It’s Tuesday morning, Dave.

    Well done.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    #Sad … good ones!! … ‘W. S. Merwin, a formidable American poet who for more than 60 years labored under a formidable poetic yoke: the imperative of using language – an inescapably concrete presence on the printed page – to conjure absence, silence and nothingness, died on Friday…He was 91.’

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Beautiful images.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. **big, comfortable, romantic, envious sigh***

    Liked by 2 people

  13. montanalulu says:

    i took his death hard….another light extinguished….

    Liked by 2 people

  14. montanalulu says:

    Thanks
    W. S. Merwin, 1927 – 2019
    Listen
    with the night falling we are saying thank you
    we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
    we are running out of the glass rooms
    with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
    and say thank you
    we are standing by the water thanking it
    standing by the windows looking out
    in our directions

    back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
    after funerals we are saying thank you
    after the news of the dead
    whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

    over telephones we are saying thank you
    in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
    remembering wars and the police at the door
    and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
    in the banks we are saying thank you
    in the faces of the officials and the rich
    and of all who will never change
    we go on saying thank you thank you

    with the animals dying around us
    our lost feelings we are saying thank you
    with the forests falling faster than the minutes
    of our lives we are saying thank you
    with the words going out like cells of a brain
    with the cities growing over us
    we are saying thank you faster and faster
    with nobody listening we are saying thank you
    we are saying thank you and waving
    dark though it is
    From Migration: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Copyright © 1988 by W. S. Merwin. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

    Liked by 1 person

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