W.S. Merwin was born in New York City in 1927 and grew up in Union City, New Jersey, and in Scranton, Pennsylvania. From 1949 to 1951 he worked as a tutor in France, Portugal, and Majorca. He has since lived in many parts of the world, most recently on Maui in the Hawaiian Islands. He is the author of many books of poems, prose, and translations and has received both the Pulitzer and the Bollingen Prizes for poetry, among numerous other awards. His new poetry collection is The Moon Before Morning.

Once Later

It is not until later
that you have to be young

it is one of the things
you meant to do later

but by then there is
someone else living there…

To the Knife

You were what made us cry in the light to start with we could see you were there and we saw what you were we were hiding from you and would have been happy to go on with the dream that you could …

Early One Morning

Here is Memory walking in the dark there are no pictures of her as she is the coming day was never seen before the stars have gone into another life the dreams have left with no sound of farewell insects wake flying up with their …

The Artisan World

It turns but does not try to remember it does not precede or follow obey nor disobey it is not answering a question it arrives knowing without knowledge it makes the pieces one by one in the dark there is always enough dark …

The Mystery of Translation

William Blake: Dante and Virgil Approaching the Angel Who Guards the Entrance of Purgatory, 1824–1827
Around 1990 Daniel Halpern wrote to invite me to contribute to a translation project that he was beginning to assemble, asking a number of contemporary poets to translate two cantos each of Dante’s Inferno. I told him that I had said for years that there were degrees in the impossibility …

To Monday

Once you arrive it is plain
that you do not remember
the last time

you are always
like that
insisting upon
beginning
upon it all beginning
over again
as though nothing had really happened

Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth

Adrienne Rich (1929–2012) It is you it is you it can only be you calling and I cannot answer in time whatever time is with no answer though I can hear your voice without its words your own voice yours alone speaking to me through …

Convenience

We were not made in its image but from the beginning we believed in it not for the pure appeasement of hunger but for its availability it could command our devotion beyond question and without our consent and by whatever name we have called …

Urticophilia

Oh let me wake where nettles are growing in the cool first light of a spring morning the young leaves shining after a night’s rain a green radiance glistening through them as their roots rise into their day’s color a hue of sunlight out of …

Why Some People Do Not Read Poetry

Because they already know that it means stopping and without stopping they know that beyond stopping it will mean listening listening without hearing and maybe then hearing without hearing and what would they hear then what good would it be to them like some …

To the Happy Few

Do you know who you are oh you forever listed under some other heading when you are listed at all you whose addresses when you have them are never sold except for another reason something else that is supposed …

The Odds

His first winter in that city after years in the north a friend wrote to me of how people there were dealing with the cold he told me that crews were digging up the avenue down at the corner all day the men …

A Codex

It was a late book given up for lost again and again with its bare sentences at last and their lines that seemed transparent revealing what had been here the whole way the poems of daylight after the day lying open …

Dishonor in Hawaii

On January 10, 1932, in Honolulu, at the funeral of a young Hawaiian man—or “boy,” as some still referred to him, though he was twenty-two at the time he was killed—thousands of Hawaiians turned out to mourn his death in the greatest public display of grief that had been seen …

Traces

Papers already darkened deckled because of the many years bear signs of a sole moment of someone’s passage that surely was mine not a sound of it now nor its entire land whole as it had to be at its age …

In Love and War

At the beginning of Rules for Old Men Waiting we come upon a weathered, somewhat dilapidated summer house in the woods on Cape Cod, and its sole remaining occupant, Robert MacIver, Scottish born and bred, a big man physically and morally, and in his youth a renowned rugby player. In …

Name in the Sand

In the early 1960s I was living in a village in southwest France overlooking the river Dordogne. For most or all of the year I explored the countryside on foot, and eventually I bought, from an acquaintance who was leaving the region, a Vespa, a wonderfully quiet model on which …

You Can Take It With You

Mr. Harrison’s subject in The Dominion of the Dead is suggested by questions posed on his book’s jacket: “How do the living maintain relations to the dead? Why do we bury people when they die? And what is at stake when we do?” We might think at first that these …

Noble Shadow

Ermengard of Narbonne, the central figure of Fredric Cheyette’s excellent book, was a powerful twelfth-century viscountess, a warrior, and a patron of poets, who lived in Narbonne, a city on the Mediterranean that had once been Roman. In our own time and language the name Ermengard may seem to have …

Echoes of Rumi

Jalâl al-Din Rumi, who has long been one of the most admired Persian poets and now has a remarkably wide following in the US, was born on September 30, 1207, in Balkh, a small town west of Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan. He was descended from several generations of Muslim scholars and …

The Impossible Blue Butterfly

Since the age of the great Victorians ended, it has come to be taken for granted, in English, that narratives, particularly if they are of any length and complexity, will be in prose. By now the assumption seems to us to be part of a deepening condition, something that has …

Transit

Wyatt was on the way home on a mission trusted again more or less but in a strange bed he died Dante had gone the same way never getting home with his breath and with faces not known clouding over them …

To My Father’s Houses

Each of you must have looked like hope to him once at least however long it lasted he who claimed he saw hope in every grim eyeless gray farmhouse uninhabited on a back road and hope surely was needed every time they were shown into …

To the Present Visitors

Now we come to the famous classroom where every year a fortunate few in the days of their youth study autumn forgetting the numbers beforehand as they have been doing since the words were all in Latin no cameras allowed in here notice the …

Usage

Do the words get old too like all the things they are used for which they follow trying to keep in step with to be the names of to say what they are shadows of wheat in the waving wheat a …

Through a Glass

My face in the train window no color years later taking me by surprise when remembered looking older of course behind it the fields I had known that long flashing through it once again before I could catch them the afternoon light the small lane …

The Summer

After we come to see it and know we scarcely live without it we begin trying to describe what art is and it seems to be something we believe is human whatever that is something that says what we are but then the same …

Footprints of a Shadow

More than sixty years after his death, seven books by and about the poetry and prose of the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa have been published in English, on both sides of the Atlantic, in close succession, a number of them in the same year. Edwin Honig, who with Susan M.