Thursday, July 1, 2010

A New Poet Laureate

I don't encounter many poets any more, except for Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder--whose prose works are among my "usual reads." When I was younger, I read a great deal of Wallace Stevens and Wilfred Owen, and I was introduced to W. S. Merwin by Rainer Schulte at UT Dallas when I was a grad student. We read him in several classes, and studied his translations of others' works--which made them available to those of us who lacked anything but ancient or obscure languages.

I loved the clarity of Merwin's work, and its lack of sentimentality; his poems are personal, but also universal, so I don't feel like I'm reading autobiography. He writes about living in nature as an act of being--not just of observing.

As usual these days, I was surprised to learn that Merwin was still alive (he's 82) when a little pop-up box from the New York Times announced that he had been named the nation's newest poet laureate yesterday.

This news drew me back to his work, and reminded me of my former attachment to his poems. I was disappointed to discover that none of it rests on the copious bookshelves in this house, so to celebrate I'll start remedying that situation. A trip to Half Price Books should turn up a few of the earlier works, at least, and then perhaps I'll treat myself to one of the newer books.

In the meantime, here are some links to pages about him, some with further links to poems. Do try them if you don't already know him; he's well worth reading, especially when he focuses on nature and our life in the natural world. His poetry should resonate with anyone who reads any of the owl blogs.

Modern American Poetry

Dwight Garner, Finding Home and Inspiration in the World of Nature

Patricia Cohen, W. S. Merwin to Be Named Poet Laureate

Random House page on Merwin, with links to works (including poems)

The Mole, a poem that appears on the National Resources Defense Council's OnEarth page devoted to award-winning journalism.

I keep forgetting that the Cabinet is the perfect spot for little gems of information like this. I spend so much time grousing about the human condition on the Farm and the sorry state of education on the Owl of Athena that I neglect the enjoyment of serendipity and gallimaufry--so I'll try to pay more attention.

Image credit: lacking a legitimate source (Wikimedia Commons has failed me!), I've stolen this photo from the Natural Resources Defense Council's blurb on Merwin. I'll take it off if they ask me, but maybe the link to their pages will count for something.