To be honest, not every one of his poems strikes a chord with me. This spring, I took a look at The Shadow of Sirius and really had trouble getting into it. Even in the poems of his I like, Merwin is usually a challenging read for me. But that, for me as a reader, is part of the pleasure. I enjoy the complexity, the joy of trying to master the language and make sense of it all.
I also enjoy the raw emotion of some of his poems. There are some feelings that words just can't do justice because of their depth and complexity. Merwin, however, finds the language and captures these emotions exquisitely. Take, for example, "Separation," a short and perfectly painful poem about loss.
Or what about this one?
By W.S. Merwin
My friend says I was not a good son
I say yes I understand
Stop right there. The ambiguity caused by the absence of quotation marks has me totally hooked. Go on to read the rest of the poem and see if the sadness of this poem resonates with you, too. Or, better yet, listen to W.S. Merwin read it himself:
One of my other favorites is one I can't find a copy-written version online, "The Unwritten." Maybe you know it--it's fabulous. So instead I leave you with one last poem from our newest Poet Laureate:
To the Blank Spaces
For longer than by now I can believe
I assumed that you had nothing to do
with each other I thought you had arrived
whenever that had been
more solitary than single snowflakes
with no acquaintance or understanding
running among you guiding your footsteps
somewhere ahead of me
in your own time oh white lakes on the maps
that I copied and gaps on the paper
for the names that were to appear in them
Read the rest of the poem here if you wish. And be sure to share your favorite Merwin poems in the comments.