Thursday, July 1, 2010

W.S. Merwin Appointed Poet Laureate of the United States


A hearty congratulations goes out to W.S. Merwin who has been appointed Poet Laureate of the United States by the library of congress. His latest book The Shadow of Sirius won the Pulitzer prize for Poetry and can be purchased here. If you would like to send a personal congratulations to W.S. Merwin, Copper Canyon Press has provided the following link. His appointment is exciting for me as I have been thinking a lot about something W.S. Merwin said in an essay first published in 1956 but can be found in the more recent anthology Don’t Ask What I Mean: Poets In Their Own Words edited by Clare Brown and Don Paterson. His words, written over fifty years ago, are just as relevent today here in Canada:

"I think one of the dangers of modern poetry has been a tendancy to become inbred. Its small audience enhances the danger. It even seems possible for some poets to write as though critics, even particular schools of critics, were a fit and sufficient audience for poetry. I used to read all the articles in which critics kept working out reasons to prove how necessary and useful they are; but I don’t read those articles, or indeed critics, any more, and I can’t remember what the reasons were, even if I try very hard.

The other, main roots of my dislike, I suppose, are a distrust of generalization and abstraction; and a superstitious unwillingness to dissect the goose whose eggs, whatever their metal, are vitally important to me.

Which leads me to one of the few general statements I feel safe in making about poetry. It is a mystery. It is a metaphor of the other mysteries which comprise human experience. But like some other mysteries, it gives us a feeling of illumination…..I think of it as a way of using what we know to glimpse what we do not know.
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-W.S. Merwin, Green with Beasts 1956

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