The Book of Fables

W.S. Merwin

Former United States Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin’s highly acclaimed, enigmatic short prose pieces—what he termed “fables”—blur the distinctions between essay, fiction, and poetry. Reminiscent of works by Kafka, Borges, and Bowles, they plumb our experiences of memory, sight, and dream travel. Originally published as The Miner’s Pale Children and Houses and Travelers, these poems create imaginative landscapes both sensuous and severe through metaphor and surrealist visions.

ISBN: 9781556592560

Format: Paperback


Certain words now in our knowledge we will not use again, and we will never forget them. We need them. Like the back of the picture. Like our marrow, and the color in our veins. We shine the lantern of our sleep on them, to make sure, and there they are, trembling already for the day of witness. They will be buried with us, and rise with the rest.

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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“If there’s such a thing as an ‘old soul,’ then W.S. Merwin surely is one. This has been evident over a long career, in his questioning, vatic voice and dreamy, meticulously crafted poetry.” —Los Angeles Times

“The two volumes published here appeared before the recent prose poem and flash fiction movements became fashionable in American literature, but Merwin’s writing adds another dimension to both genres.” —Library Journal

The Book of Fables brings back into print two classic books of short, haunting, mythic prose by this great poet. It should be on every poetry or fiction lover’s shelf.” —Publishers Weekly

“Merwin’s ‘enigmatic short prose’ works best by being read slowly, over time, a special and rare treat.” —Washington Post

“… in W.S. Merwin’s The Book of Fables, the award-winning poet plants 165 short fictional stories in the mind of the reader, who then marvels at the blossoming of prose poems.” —New Jersey Home News Tribune

“Poet, memoirist, fabulist fiction author, translator, anthologist W.S. Merwin is an artist of the highest order: one of a handful of contemporary masters to whose work we continually turn to understand the troubled, terrifying zeitgeist of our times… [Merwin is] a magisterial stylist, a master of tone, and an absolute gazelle with surreal obliquity and wit… If one is interested in where the fairy tale, the parable got to before the materiality of language disappeared in a puff of postmodern smoke, this is as good a place to start as any.” —Pacific Rim Review of Books