Wednesday, August 03, 2011

To W.S. Merwin

I was in the bookstore Borders
for their going out of business sale
and I wandered from Music to Poetry
as I always do there was your recent
book of poems Present Company
in which you address many ordinary things
in simple plain language that works through
complex thoughts and lines of thought

I picked up and put down your book
several times wandering back to it
going over to read Borges or Whitman
then coming back picking yours up
and paging through it at random
till I decided to buy it anyway
and brought it home to read

Now I am walking out in the early night
around the block a thin crescent moon
is about to set in the summer heat
which has waved aurorae and mirage
around the street lanterns all night and day
now I am walking fast enough to exercise
my heart legs and pained other self
gaining ground going uphill at last
to return to my own yard with its last lilies
now I am looking again at the last inch
of moon parsed behind oak and spruce
silhouettes against and emerging North Star

i think about your poems some more
as I walk especially the ones on larger things
I like poems that aren't afraid of eternity
and I also like the poems about small things
because you open them up to questions
very large questions asking those things
that poets need to ask and so rarely do
questions that spin out from the small into
the long and large without ever losing shape

I come home after my walk sweaty just a little
and look through your book at random again
I think all poets should read these poems
their questions their simple language that
embodies complex perceptions
this is one for the keeping of secrets
and the revealing of truths whether known
or not yet known

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Blogger Glenn Ingersoll said...

I like this one - I suppose I am hearing Merwin's voice in yours?

11:02 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...


Just for fun, I wrote the review in imitation of the style of some of the poems in the book. It seemed appropriate: not mockery, but an homage. Anyway, that's how it worked out.

I wonder how it would be if lots of book reviews gave you a flavor for the book being reviewed by imitating its style or tone in the review?

1:54 AM  
Blogger Danish dog said...

I like your tribute to Merwin. I've recently had a kind of tribute to him published too, in the latest issue of Snakeskin in "Expanding Notes":

2:48 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks for the linkage. Snakeskin looks interesting. I don't do much formal verse, but I like their attitude. Folks ought to consider throwing some paint at the wall, and submit there. I think I will, too.

Merwin is one of the grand old men of poetry at this point. I've read him before, but this is the first book of his I've bought new, that I can recall. I think I have a Selected around somewhere. Now I want to go back and read more of his work, as I like what I'm reading now. It's never too late to (re)discover a poet's work. I always like finding new things to read.

4:25 AM  
Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I’m unfamiliar with Merwin but then I’m not especially familiar with any poets bar, perhaps, William Carlos Williams and Philip Larkin and by ‘familiar’ I mean that they feel as if they are a part of my family. I looked for a few poems of Merwin’s online to see what he was like: “ordinary things / in simple plain language” – now, that’s my kind of poetry. I found one that leapt off the page, a poem called ‘Yesterday’, and, in exactly the same way as ‘Mr Bleaney’ resonated with me all those years ago so, too, does this poem; it is a poem that aches. I wish he had used proper punctuation – never that problem with Larkin – but I can cope.

5:44 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

I actually think Merwin might be another touchstone for you, Jim. Your two styles remind me of each other—barring as you say punctuation style. I rather prefer Merwin's loose punctuation because it leaves the line open-ended rather than pounding home a conclusion. But the ordinary things in plain simple language is something you two share, I feel. You might enjoy looking more deeply into Merwin at this time. This recent book isn't a bad place to start.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I've put his Selected Poems in my Amazon basket and the next book token I get will pay for it. I can wait, it's not as if I don't have anything to read.

3:29 AM  
Blogger Danish dog said...

Here's an interview with Merwin I think you'd like, Art:


5:07 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

That's a great interview. Thanks. Some good insights in there.

7:46 PM  

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