WS Merwin may be the most influential American poet of the last half-century - an artist who has transfigured and reinvigorated the vision of poetry for our time. Bloodaxe published his "Selected Poems" in 2007. Now 81, Merwin has produced 'his best book in a decade - and one of the best outright' ("Publishers Weekly"). The nuanced mysteries of light, darkness, presence, and memory are central themes in his latest collection. 'I have only what I remember,' Merwin admits, and his memories are focused and profound - the distinct qualities of autumn light, a conversation with a boyhood teacher, well-cultivated loves, and 'our long evenings and astonishment'. In "Photographer", Merwin presents the scene where arm loads of antique glass negatives are saved from a dump cart by 'someone who understood'. In "Empty Lot", Merwin evokes a child lying in bed at night, listening to the muffled dynamite blasts of coal mining near his home, and we can't help but ask: How shall we mine our lives?
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W.S. Merwin has been awarded most of the principal prizes in American poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Bollingen Prize and the Tanning Prize and a Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award. Bloodaxe published his Selected Poems in 2007, prior to which his poetry had been unavailable in Britain for over 35 years. As well as being an internationally renowned poet, W. S. Merwin is the author of many classic translations, including editions of Neruda, Dante, The Song of Roland, The Poem of the Cid, and (from Bloodaxe) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. His latest titles from Bloodaxe are Selected Poems (2007) and The Shadow of Sirius (2009). Neil Astley's anthology Bloodaxe Poetry Introductions: 3 (2007) includes a selection of his poems with extracts from interviews and other prose. Born in New Jersey City in 1927, he taught at several universities, and now lives on the Pacific island of Maui, where he tends to his writing and to his garden of rare and endangered palm trees.Review:
'In his best book in a decade - and one of the best outright - Merwin points his oracular, unpunctuated poems toward his own past, admitting, 'I have only what I remember', and offering what may be his most personal, generous and empathic collection. Somehow, he manages to dissolve the boundaries between one time and another, seeming to look forward to the past or remember what has yet to happen - The poems show the marks of having weathered the complete course / of lifeA", but also feel fresh and awake with a simplicity that can only be called wisdom: the morning is too / beautiful to be anything elseA". Gorgeous poems about enduring love melt time as well, looking toward a moment when we will be no older than we ever were' - Publishers Weekly. 'In The Shadow of Sirius, Merwin has given to 21st-century poetry what Matisse gave to 20th-century painting with his late-in-life paper cutouts: the irreducible essence of his art. It is a gift that unites past and present, a gift of genius and love, a gift that consecrates a poet's life' - The Wichita Eagle. 'A fastidious, elegant writer, he is a calligrapher of consciousness, a fine penman aware that he is writing not on parchment but in water - Merwin is the unmistakable heir of the Emerson and Whitman who so ecstatically hymned flux' - M. WYNN THOMAS, Guardian. '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' - PETER DAVISON, Atlantic Monthly. 'He has attained - more and more with every collection - a wonderfully streamlined diction that unerringly separates and recombines like quicksilver scattered upon a shifting plane, but remains as faithful to the warms and cools of the human heart as that same mercury in the pan-pipe of a thermometer' - James Merrill
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