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
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 …