William Stanley Merwin is the new United States Poet Laureate.
I hadn’t heard much about him, other than he translated an edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, for which I can easily respect him. He quotes Ezra Pound in an interview, and I can see a few scant whisps of Pound within his poetry, which is also rather reminiscent of e.e. cummings in its stream of consciousness style. I’m referring mainly to the bulk of his poetry I’ve been able to see online in the little time since I saw the announcement.
At the last minute a word is waiting
not heard that way before and not to be
repeated or ever be remembered
one that always had been a household word
used in speaking of the ordinary
everyday recurrences of living
not newly chosen or long considered
or a matter for comment afterward
who would ever have thought it was the one
saying itself from the beginning through
all its uses and circumstances to
utter at last that meaning of its own
for which it had long been the only word
though it seems now that any word would do
He isn’t really a huge fan of punctuation, but sometimes it works to great effect, though I believe that it should be used sparingly. Even cummings uses the odd comma now and again. This is one of the few poems I’ve seen (again, in my vast 1 hour of searching online) to use punctuation. It’s good to see that he can use punctuation, and to use it well.
“The Ships are Made Ready in Silence”
Moored to the same ring:
The hour, the darkness and I,
Our compasses hooded like falcons.
Now the memory of you comes aching in
With a wash of broken bits which never left port
In which once we planned voyages,
They come knocking like hearts asking:
What departures on this tide?
Breath of land, warm breath,
You tighten the cold around the navel,
Though all shores but the first have been foreign,
And the first was not home until left behind.
Our choice is ours but we have not made it,
Containing as it does, our destination
Circled with loss as with coral, and
A destination only until attained.
I have left you my hope to remember me by,
Though now there is little resemblance.
At this moment I could believe in no change,
The mast perpetually
Vacillating between the same constellations,
The night never withdrawing its dark virtue
From the harbor shaped as a heart,
The sea pulsing as a heart,
The sky vaulted as a heart,
Where I know the light will shatter like a cry
Above a discovery:
Look. This is the morning.
I’m interested to read more about him! Anyone you’d choose to be the current laureate?