“I felt so happy to think of that,” he says, “that the real world was down there.”
November 18, 2010 10:34 AM   Subscribe

"The writing process, Merwin says, is all about time and environment. He will be the first to tell you that poetry “is something before it is about something,” and that if you try to force a poem to take a stance, it is likely to choke: “I think a poem begins out of what you don’t know, and you begin not by having a good idea but by hearing something in the language.”" A terrific interview with U.S. Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin.
posted by liketitanic (9 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
thank you for your choice of sentences to add to the FPP.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 11:19 AM on November 18, 2010

Thanks for this post. Here's an interview he did on Fresh Air when The Shadow of Sirius came out a few years back.
posted by Beardman at 12:21 PM on November 18, 2010

The fact that Merwin elected to take on a palm forest restoration project at age 49 gives me some much needed hope for middle age just right now. Still have 10 years to figure out my project...
posted by nanojath at 12:23 PM on November 18, 2010

I haven't read Merwin in many years, though I suppose I liked him okay when I did, so I don't really have a horse in this race, but poet Ron Silliman (who speaks for many progressive and experimental writers) didn't think much of the choice of Merwin for Poet Laureate. Also, some people were bothered when Merwin told the N.Y. Times that at his age he didn't think he'd be getting to Washington (from his Hawai'i home) much to attend to the usual obligations of the (salaried) Poet Laureate position -- the poet is expected to be an active advocate for literature, the arts, and literacy in general -- though at least he was frank about not being up for that part of the job.
posted by aught at 2:08 PM on November 18, 2010

'I bring myself back from the streets that open like long
Silent laughs, and the others
Spilled into in the way of rivers breaking up, littered with words,
Crossed by cats and that sort of thing.'

W.S Merwin. 'Home for Thanksgiving'

Its la-de-da come not dither unique, no matter.

My favorite poem aloud is

'The Drunk in the Furnace'
posted by clavdivs at 6:21 PM on November 18, 2010

I completely agree with you and Merwin on this one.
Poetry never comes out in the way one starts to write it. I'd wager that poetry isn't even written: it is felt. By both the writer whilst writing and the reader in his or her reading and interpretation to fit his or her own life. After all, no two people can apply the same poem in the same way; everyone has a different background, and therefore, a different cognitive process by which one would interpret something as metaphorically and emotionally deep as true poetry.
posted by MHPlost at 6:56 PM on November 18, 2010

'And bowing not knowing to what'

Just leaves one to a gentle image, funny really.
like a man chasing his hat with no one around.
posted by clavdivs at 8:53 PM on November 18, 2010

poet Ron Silliman (who speaks for many progressive and experimental writers) didn't think much of the choice of Merwin for Poet Laureate.

As near as I have ever been able to figure out, it is Ron Silliman's self-appointed duty to not think much of things, in particular if they are comprehensible.
posted by brennen at 8:41 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Despite that Merwin is a great poet, he is still an odd choice for Laureate. He's a recluse. Not exactly a public-minded advocate for literature in this country. Sad, too, because that's what we could really use.
posted by hpb2earnest at 3:52 PM on November 19, 2010

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