Witness: The Ecological Poetry of W.S. Merwin

Witness: The Ecological Poetry of W.S. Merwin (2017) A documentary film by Larry Cameron and John Carpenter. This is one of the best extended interviews with W. S. Merwin at the end of his life. What can be said about a poet who achieved a full life, who died in the place where he chose to save plants and trees that had been ravaged by land development. W. S. Merwin was a very lucky man, for few poets ever attain such renown in their own time — so many awards –and yet manage, tenaciously,  to create both poetry and natural growth all around him. “More handsome than he had a right to be,” one famous poet jealously quipped, Merwin restored Thoreau’s transcendentalism to its Asian origins. A great Troubadour Poet.

When he came to the University of Iowa

For a public reading, I required all my students

To attend. The auditorium was filled to overflowing,

With speakers set up in the foyer outside the hall

So those who could not get in could still hear him.

None of the professors attended, except for

Charles Wright, who introduced him.

Later, at the MFA gathering in a student’s house,

Merwin, firmly grasping the waist of a female poet,

Hovered around a glowing fish tank, “Look

At all those fishes!” the rascal smiled

And I got his point. Do you?

[Disposable Memory March 15 2019]

Dr. Mike






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