The Essential W.S. Merwin

W.S. Merwin

The Essential W.S. Merwin traces a poetic legacy that changed the landscape of American letters: seven decades of audacity, rigor, and candor distilled into one definitive volume curated to represent the very best works from a vast oeuvre, from his 1952 debut, A Mask for Janus, to 2016’s Garden Time. The Essential W.S Merwin includes favorite poems from two Pulitzer Prize-winning volumes; a selection of iconic translations; and lesser-known prose narratives. As the formalism of Merwin’s early work loosened into the open, unpunctuated style he developed during the Civil Rights Movement—when urgent times demanded innovative modes of expression—readers can trace the evolution of one voice’s commitment to moral, spiritual, and aesthetic inquiry. Across the decades, beyond headlines, policies, and trends, W.S. Merwin’s poems point to the lessons that hide in the shadows of sentience.

ISBN: 9781556595134

Format: Paperback

Rain Light

All day the stars watch from long ago
my mother said I am going now
when you are alone you will be all right
whether or not you know you will know
look at the old house in the dawn rain
all the flowers are forms of water
the sun reminds them through a white cloud
touches the patchwork spread on the hill
the washed colors of the afterlife
that lived there long before you were born
see how they wake without a question
even though the whole world is burning

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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About the Editor

Michael Wiegers has been acquiring and editing books for Copper Canyon Press since 1993, and currently serves as the Press’s Executive Editor/Editor in Chief. He has edited two retrospective volumes of the poetry of Frank Stanford, including What About This, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and received the Balcones Poetry Prize. He edited the anthologies The Poet’s Child and This Art, and translated poems for Reversible Monuments: Contemporary Mexican Poetry, which he co-edited with Mónica de la …

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Reviews

“Poring slowly over these pages—essential as they are—just might be the wisest prescriptive, balm for the soul, in the wake of the poet’s final absence.” —Chicago Tribune

“Merwin’s masterfully refined, meditative poems stem from his dwelling mindfully in one beloved place and handling words as though they are seeds, flowers, stones, and water… Merwin has attained a transcendent and transformative elevation of beaming perception, exquisite balance, and clarifying beauty.” —Booklist, starred review

“A reader cannot avoid feeling a sense of legacy in cracking the covers of The Essential W.S. Merwin: the title alone exposes what readers of Merwin’s work have known for decades, that this is important work, that Merwin’s words are the bearers of effect.” —Bruce Arien Wasserman, New York Journal of Books

“In his personal anonymity, his strict individuated manner, his defense of the earth, and his heartache at time’s passing, Merwin has become instantly recognizable on the page.” —Helen Vendler, New York Review of Books

“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

“[The Essential W.S. Merwin] beautifully demonstrates why Merwin has been one of America’s most decorated and important poets for more than 60 years.” —Elizabeth Lund, Washington Post

“Simple astonishment, one of the rarest of all literary experiences, is the most potent outcome; in Merwin’s best poems, he seems brought up short by his own discoveries.” —Dan Chiasson, New Yorker

“Merwin sees the world as fallen, or falling, yet through this chaos he sees the divine.” —Paris Review

“Merwin [is] fresh and awake with a simplicity that can only be called wisdom.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review