Reading W.S. Merwin (1927-2019)

Poet W.S. Merwin died yesterday, March 15, 2019, at his home in Hawaii.  Poet, translator, environmentalist, memoirist, conservator of land, language, human imagination.  Soul.  A poem from his book The Shadow of Sirius (2009, Copper Canyon Press):

Just This

When I think of the patience I have had

back in the dark before I remember

or knew it was night until the light came

all at once at the speed it was born to

with all the time in the world to fly through

not concerned about ever arriving

and then the gathering of the first stars

unhurried in their flowering spaces

and far into the story the planets

cooling slowly and the ages of rain

then the seas starting to bear memory

the gaze of the first cell at its waking

how did this haste begin this little time

at any time this reading by lightning

scarcely a word this nothing this heaven

View fr. I-91 North, Connecticut; Nov. 22, 2017

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Retro-Update – Looking Back to Pages from a Handmade Book, c. 2014

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(MPW collage on left; cut-out from old (OLD!) Art News on right)

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(xerox litho on left; collage on right)

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(on the left: carved wooden head from a fetish figure, Bakongo tribe, Congo; fr.The Art of Central Africa, pub. 1967.  MPW drawing on the right.)

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Re-Reading C.D. Wright, 10:30 p.m.

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“. . . That the poems we snatch from the language must bear the habit of our thinking.

That their arrangement strengthens the authority on which each separate line is laid.

That they extend the line into perpetuity.

That they enlarge the circle.

That they awaken the dreamer.  That they awaken the schemer.

That they rectify the names.

That they draw not conclusions but further qualify doubt.  . . . .”

(p. 39; fr. The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All; pub. 2016, Copper Canyon Press)

 

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Thinking about Wallace Stevens….

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     “What is the poet’s subject?  It is his sense of the world.  The truth is that a man’s (one’s) sense of the world dictates his subjects to him, and that this sense is derived from his personality, his temperament, over which he has little control and possibly none, except superficially.  It is not a literary problem.  It’s the problem of his mind and nerves.  These sayings are another form of the saying that “Poets are born, not made”.  A poet writes of twilight because he shrinks from noonday.” (WS)

(image: mpw)

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Reading John Berger……

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From Bento’s Sketchbook, a quote from Spinoza’s Ethics:

“We sense and experience that we are eternal.  For the mind no less senses those things which it conceives in understanding than those which it has in the memory.  For the eyes of the mind by which it sees things and observes them are proofs.  So although we do not remember that we existed before the body, we sense nevertheless that our mind in so far as it involves the essence of the body under a species of eternity is eternal and its existence cannot be defined by time or explained by duration.”

(Ethics, Part V, Proposition XXIII)

 

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Reading Muriel Rukeyser at 2 a.m.

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(excerpt from The Life of Poetry (Introduction) :

“In times of crisis, we summon up our strength.

Then, if we are lucky, we are able to call every resource, every forgotten image that can leap to our quickening, every memory that can make us know our power.  And this luck is more than it seems to be: it depends on the long preparation of the self to be used.

In time of the crises of the spirit, we are aware of all our need, our need for each other and our need for our selves.  We call up, with all the strength of summoning we have, our fullness.  And then we turn; for it is a turning that we have prepared; and act.  The time of the turning may be very long.  It may hardly exist.”

 

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