W.S. Merwin Poems

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W.S. Merwin
William Stanley Merwin (born September 30, 1927 in New York City) is one of the most influential American poets of the latter 20th century. Merwin made a name for himself as an anti-war poet during the 1960's. Later, he would evolve toward mythological themes and develop a unique prosody characterized by indirect narration and the absence of punctuation. In the 80's and 90's, Merwin's interest in Buddhist philosophy and deep ecology also influenced his writing. He continues to write prolifically, though he also dedicates significant time to the restoration of rainforests in Hawaii, the state where he lives. Merwin has received many honors, including a Pulitzer Prize and a Tanning Prize, one of the highest honors bestowed by the Academy of American Poets. Merwin grew up in Union City, New Jersey and Scranton, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Princeton University in 1948. His father was a Presbyterian minister. 'I started writing hymns for my father as soon as I could write at all', Merwin has said. While at Princeton, he studied writing with John Berryman and R. P. Blackmur, to whom his fifth book, The Moving Target (1963), was later dedicated. Merwin spent a postgraduate year at Princeton studying Romance languages, an interest that would lead, eventually, to his much-admired work as a translator of Latin, Spanish, and French poetry. Merwin travelled in France, Spain, and England. He settled in Majorca in 1950 as a tutor to Robert Graves's son. Graves, with his interest in mythology, would become a primary influence on young Merwin. Moving to London in 1951, Merwin made his living as a translator for several years. In America, his first book of poems won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award for 1952, selected by W. H. Auden, who remarked in his introduction on the young poet's technical virtuosity. That volume, A Mask for Janus, is immensely formal, neoclassical in style. For the next decade Merwin would regularly publish collections of intensely wrought, brightly imagistic poems that recalled the poetry of Wallace Stevens as well as Robert Graves and other influences. After his graduation from Princeton, Merwin has never been associated with a writing program or university. He has lived all over the world, and he now lives in Haiku, Hawaii. At a Union City (NJ) council meeting in early March 2006, historian Kathie Pontus formally requested that the city of Union City honor Merwin, who was scheduled to be in New Jersey to accept the National Book Award for his latest poetry collection (ISBN 1-55659-218-3) called Migration. Pontus asked the board that a street naming be held on April 22, 2006 for Merwin, who when contacted for the event, stated that he was "nostalgic about Union City, and moved that it remembered him, and would love to return home to receive this honor."

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

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