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July 01, 2010

America's New Poet Laureate - W.S. Merwin

Poetry is the art of compressing the most meaning into the fewest number of words. One poet I have been reading for many years is W.S. Merwin. Merwin was just chosen...

....by The Library of Congress as America's new poet laureate.

Merwin's poems are earthy and fanciful, immediately accessible yet thought provoking. Most of his poems are short and evocative - and best read out loud.

On cold rainy nights in the Pacific Northwest, I used to read Merwin's poetry out loud to myself with a raging fire in a wood burning stove in my parent's basement. Wonderful!

As you read his work, you can't help but notice his unique approach to standard language (sparse and simple) and his avoidance of the usual standards of punctuation and sentence structure.

I have always found Merwin's poems inspiring, I believe you will as well.

For an inspiring experience, check out this interview of Merwin by Bill Moyers http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/06262009/profile.html.

Don't miss this website sponsored by the Academy of American Poets. You can also click on the sidebar for some links to Merwin reading his own poems. http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/123

Merwin, like most of us, is intrigued by language. Don't miss this video on learning your own language - http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/20339

Here's a great article from the L.A. Times - http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-poet-20100702,0,687560.story.

For more background on Merwin's life, take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._S._Merwin.

Here's a sample poem. Read it slowly - and out loud.

Unknown Bird by W. S. Merwin

Out of the dry days
through the dusty leaves
far across the valley
those few notes never
heard here before

one fluted phrase
floating over its
wandering secret
all at once wells up
somewhere else

and is gone before it
goes on fallen into
its own echo leaving
a hollow through the air
that is dry as before

where is it from
hardly anyone
seems to have noticed it
so far but who now
would have been listening

it is not native here
that may be the one
thing we are sure of
it came from somewhere
else perhaps alone

so keeps on calling for
no one who is here
hoping to be heard
by another of its own
unlikely origin

trying once more the same few
notes that began the song
of an oriole last heard
years ago in another
existence there

it goes again tell
no one it is here
foreign as we are
who are filling the days
with a sound of our own

Posted by mmorf at July 1, 2010 11:37 PM

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