Migration: New and Selected Poems

W.S. Merwin

W.S. Merwin is the most influential American poet of the last half-century—an artist who transfigured and reinvigorated the vision of poetry for our time. Migration: New and Selected Poems—selected by Merwin from fifteen diverse volumes—is a gathering of the best poems from a profound body of work, accented by a selection of distinctive new poems. As an undergraduate at Princeton University, Merwin was advised by John Berryman to “get down on your knees and pray to the muse every day.” Migration represents the bounty of those prayers. Over the last fifty years, Merwin’s muse has led him beyond the formal verse of his early years to revolutionary open forms that engage a vast array of influences and possibilities.

ISBN: 9781556592614

Format: Paperback


All morning with dry instruments
The field repeats the sound
Of rain
From memory
And in the wall
The dead increase their invisible honey
It is August
The flocks are beginning to form
I will take with me the emptiness of my hands
What you do not have you find everywhere

About the Author

W.S. Merwin was born in New York City in 1927 and was United States Poet Laureate in 2010. He graduated from Princeton University in 1948, where he studied with John Berryman and R.P. Blackmur. From 1949 to 1951 he worked as a tutor in France, Mallorca, and Portugal; for several years afterward he made the greater part of his living by translating from French, Spanish, Latin, and Portuguese. His first book of poetry, A Mask for Janus (1952) was selected …

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“The poems in Migration speak from a lifelong belief in the power of words to awaken our drowsy souls and see the world with compassionate interconnection. In moments of self awakening that might be roused by ambulance sirens from St. Vincent’s Hospital, or the rustle of weasel in the wall of a French farmhouse, these poems offer us a place in the world where the ordinary becomes extraordinary, where ‘the pain of learning what is lost / is transformed into light at last.'” —Judges’ citation, National Book Award, 2005

“The publication of W.S. Merwin’s selected and new poems is one of those landmark events in the literary world… Merwin is one of the great poets of our age.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“[I]t’s hard to believe this rich selection represents the work of just one man.” —Publishers Weekly

“[Migration] shows W.S. Merwin to be an artist who has never ceased to challenge himself and his readership.” —Library Journal

“[In] any landscape, Merwin stands tall.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

“Merwin has migrated within the universe of poetry, too, moving from solidly constructed, tactile, and dramatic works to airy, abstract, unpunctuated, and contemplative poems, a journey beautifully mapped here in selections from 15 previous collections, capped by a gathering of new poems. Complex, spiritual, and evocative, Merwin is a major poet, and this is a sublime measure of his achievements.” —Booklist

“In prose and poetry alike, Merwin’s impulse is to recognize the sacred moment, to record that awakening of attention, with precision. It is an ability that has inspired each departure he’s made toward a new creative endeavor, with an equally rewarding return for his readers: the gift of his books.” —Poets & Writers

Migration: New and Selected Poems gathers Merwin’s personal harvest of his fifty-year oeuvre into one magisterial volume.” —Wichita Eagle

“Many of us have followed W.S. Merwin’s work book by book, collection by collection. It is a joy to celebrate the publication of Migration, his new and selected poems, that brings together work from fifteen previous collections… He has consistently turned to archaic and medieval sources, to tribal literatures, for renewal, and yet his work is completely written, inscripted. It mines the resources of the modernists. Poetry, for him, has something to do with the completeness of life. It comes out of a deep inner need for articulation. It is a fragment that seeks to complete experience, to make it whole, and there is a mythic element to everything he writes. I would say that he is like an ancient bard, a scop, a shaman, who has been updated for our era. He has created a body of wisdom literature that is unprecedented in our age. I feel lucky to be alive at a time when W.S. Merwin has been creating his startling and incomparable work.” —Edward Hirsch, introducing “A Tribute to W.S. Merwin”

“The trajectory of Merwin’s work is meteoric: its greatest flashes of beauty and insight are the product of traditional poetic impulses breaking up under the pressures of our atmosphere… he has written some of the most powerful poems in the language against our species’s murderous sense of self-importance.” —Jacket

“W.S. Merwin’s legacy is unquestionably secure: his best and most fierce poems are moody, visionary compositions that dive into the unconscious and the seeds of existence with an inwardness and scrutiny unique in American poetry.” —Poetry

“From pondering the tone of falling to wondering how to speak to the gestures of time, or the consolations of philosophy—why we need to account for light but not for the dark—[Merwin] apprehends the mortal undertaking of it all.” —Neon



National Book Award for Poetry, 2005