Friday, September 08, 2006

words from W.S. Merwin

  |   Now all my teachers are dead except silence
  |   I am trying to read what the five poplars are writing
  |   on the void

from "A Scale in May," in The Lice (1967)

According to one blogger, this is among Merwin's better-known poems. The common wisdom among some is that the said book is perhaps his most noteworthy. Be that as may, I've grown up more under impress of later volumes such as Finding the Islands (1983), Travels (1993), and The Vixen (1996). Some poems from earlier volumes such as The Moving Target (1963) and The Carrier of Ladders (1970) have also made a strong impression. I was disappointed that two such poems ("A Hymn for the Eyes" and "Route with No Number") are not (strange to say) included in the big Copper Canyon selected poems, Migration (2005). Indeed "A Hymn for the Eyes" (I hope I'm recalling the title aright; I vaguely want to say "A Psalm for the Eyes" -- I don't have the books at hand as I type this) is one of the most astonishing and moving poems I've read anywhere by anyone.

Anyway soon when I get a chance, I'll give this five poplars poem a proper read. I stumbled on the lines in passing here.

The odd way I ended up there was: I received an email from someone who runs the Famous Poets and Poems website. (I don't think I'll follow the invite to enlist myself as a famous poet, even if John Matthew, as I recall, did that some months ago.) Anyway I looked up their Merwin listing, and the first of those lines was one of two they quote. Wanting to know more about it, google pulled me to the 3 lines (in the review of Migration). They (I mean the famous-poeters) note MSW's birthdate as September 30, 1927. I've marked my calendar. The occasion could merit a blogo-hat-tip. Okay: I'll plan to blog about "A Hymn for the Eyes" on that date, inshallah.

btw, I presume that dog is Maoli -- of the famous (to me) line

  |   I do not know where Maoli is

Much could be said about the poem from which that line comes. Maybe another day.


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