W.S. Merwin Named the Next U.S. Poet Laureate

W.S. Merwin, one of my favorite poets living or dead, has been named the 17th United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress*. His term will begin in the fall of 2010 and run through the fall of 2011.

He will open the Library of Congress’s annual literary series with a reading of his work on October 25, 2010.

For some of my favorite poets, like W.S. Merwin or Rainer Maria Rilke, I do not know how they first entered my life. They have become so integral to me that I feel as though they have always been with me. After reading his work, “Separation,” — which I hope he reads at the conclusion of his duties as the Poet Laureate — I cannot think of loss the same way.

An environmentalist as well as a poet, he tends a garden at the base of a dormant volcano in Hawai’i where he regrows indigineous plants. His interest in environmental concerns extends into his poetry and has since 1967, when he wrote “For A Coming Extinction” in his book The Lice:

For A Coming Extinction

Gray whale
Now that we are sending you to The End
That great god
Tell him
That we who follow you invented forgiveness
And forgive nothing

I write as though you could understand
And I could say it
One must always pretend something
Among the dying
When you have left the seas nodding on their stalks
Empty of you
Tell him that we were made
On another day

The bewilderment will diminish like an echo
Winding along your inner mountains
Unheard by us
And find its way out
Leaving behind it the future
Dead
And ours

When you will not see again
The whale calves trying the light
Consider what you will find in the black garden
And its court
The sea cows the Great Auks the gorillas
The irreplaceable hosts ranged countless
And fore-ordaining as stars
Our sacrifices
Join your work to theirs
Tell him
That it is we who are important

– W.S. Merwin

I am excited to see what programs he develops and who he invites to read. I think this will be a good year for poetry.

Articles About His Appointment

 

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*. Try fitting that title on a résumé! [ Back to Top ]

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