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Friday, July 02, 2010

Poetry Friday--The New U.S. Poet Laureate!

Yesterday, the Library of Congress announced the appointment of the new U.S. Poet Laureate, W.S. Merwin. Merwin replaces Kay Ryan who has served for the past two years.
The author of more than 30 books of poetry and prose, Merwin’s influence on American poetry is profound. Often noted by critics is his decision, in the 1960s, to relinquish the use of punctuation. "I had come to feel that punctuation stapled the poems to the page," Merwin wrote in his introduction to "The Second Four Books of Poems." "Whereas I wanted the poems to evoke the spoken language, and wanted the hearing of them to be essential to taking them in."
It's funny, but in reading some of his work, I never noticed the lack of punctuation, whereas, in Cormac McCarthy's novels, I was completely turned off by it! I wonder why? Perhaps because with McCarthy it seemed more like an affectation. In Merwin's work the lack of punctuation seems natural.

W.S. Merwin (right) accepting the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for The Shadow of Sirius

On the Library's shelf we have two of Merwin's collections,Migration: New & Selected Poems and The Shadow of Sirius [both 811.54 MER].

For today I'd like to offer this Merwin poem from The Shadow of Sirius. I think it is the perfect poem for Merwin's first days on the job!

From the Start

Who did I think was listening
when I wrote down the words
in pencil at the beginning
words for singing
to music I did not know
and people I did not know
would read them and stand to sing them
already knowing them
while they sing they have no names

All the best to W.S. Merwin!

The Poetry Friday Round-Up is taking place at The Poem Farm.


  1. Goodbye, Kay, hello W.S.!

  2. I'm very excited about Merwin. I heard him speak at the Dodge Festival a few years ago. He seems like a very grounded person, with a deep connection to the environment.

  3. Merwin is an amazingly prolific poet... nice to see him honored in this way. I look foward to what he'll bring to the post!