This edition includes former United States Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin’s four acclaimed early works: A Mask for Janus, The Dancing Bears, Green with Beasts, and The Drunk in the Furnace. In choosing Merwin’s first book for the Yale Younger Poets Award in 1952, W.H. Auden noted that Merwin had a “gift for myth.” This ability marked his poetry throughout his long and distinguished career, and The First Four Books of Poems provides a map to a deeper understanding of the stylistic and intellectual evolution of a major poet.
“The four books represent almost a decade in the output of one of America’s greatest living poets.” —Post Book World
“In a time when so many writers are satisfied with simply writing publishable poems, it is gratifying to read poetry that is this ambitious, that cares about vision and the possibilities of poetry, by a poet who is capable of so much change.” —The Nation
“Merwin’s rich, inventive imagination was evident from the beginning, and in this… collection you get to see one of our greatest poets develop before your very eyes.” —Booklist
“There are simply too many stunning poems in [this] entire book to attempt to list them. It is necessary to spend years with a book like this, drifting from table to bookcase to nightstand and back, in order to familiarize oneself with all its wonders.” —The Stranger
“The intentions of Merwin’s poetry are as broad as the biosphere yet as intimate as a whisper. He conveys in the sweet simplicity of grounded language a sense of the self where it belongs, floating between heaven, earth, and the underground.” —The Atlantic
“Merwin is regarded by many as the finest poet in America today… Now, thanks to Copper Canyon Press, we can take a long look back at the beginnings of his masterful career and savor the salient strengths of his work… Merwin’s poems are resonant… marked by an acute attentiveness to the elusive nature of things and a passionate desire to plumb their depths, to behold the elegant, elusive dance of their mystery… Here is a poetry of existential allusion: calling forth the deep structure of experience, leading us to the brink of revelation… Merwin in The First Four Books of Poems sings with grand mythic overtones… Open its page, and you’ll find a true cause for celebration.” —Wichita Eagle