Poetry W.S. Merwin The River Sound: Poems

ISBN 13: 9780375404863

The River Sound: Poems

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9780375404863: The River Sound: Poems

A strikingly beautiful new book of poems from one of our finest poets, exhibiting his artistry in the style he has made his own. To his lyrics Merwin adds three long narrative poems: "Lament for the Makers" is his tribute to fellow poets who are gone and who had his admiration, from Dylan Thomas to James Merrill; "Testimony" is a tour de force, an autobiographical poem in the manner of Francois Villon; "Suite in the Key of Forgetting" is a remarkable poem about memory and memories. All in all, a masterly work by a major poet.

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Review:

W.S. Merwin is indisputably one of our finest living poets. The two books preceding The River Sound (The Vixen and The Folding Cliffs) are nearly flawless. Their thematic coherence and sustained, lyrical intensity are the culmination of Merwin's signature style: long, loping lines--frequently enjambed--with minimal if any punctuation. In these fluid poems, he has found the ideal form for his preoccupation with "the open unrepeatable / present."

The River Sound, while thematically building upon this preoccupation, does not quite reach the same stylistic virtuosity, though the book's shorter poems do exhibit Merwin's facility for transparently evoking the sensory details of a particular place, person, or memory. This rendering is especially poignant because many of its poems, such as "227 Waverly Place," are about Merwin at 70 taking leave, perhaps for the final time, of places and people that have become a part of him:

When I have left I imagine they will
repair the window onto the fire escape
that looks north up the avenue clear
to Columbus Circle long I have known
the lights of that valley at every hour
through that unwashed pane and have watched with no
conclusion its river flowing toward me
straight from the featureless distance coming
closer darkening swelling growing distinct
speeding up as it passed below me toward
the tunnel all that time through all that time...
Merwin falters, however, when he attempts to merge his open style within a traditional rhyming, iambic structure. In "Testimony," a 60-page autobiographical poem, the rhyme scheme and the sentiment can occasionally border on cliché: "The year I will be seventy / who never could believe my age / still foolish it appears to me / as I have been at every stage..." Yet within the context of Merwin's entire body of work, it's well worth reading. --Emily Warn

About the Author:

W. S. Merwin was born in New York City in 1927 and grew up in Union City, New Jersey, and in Scranton, Pennsylvania. From 1949 to 1951 he worked as a tutor in France, Portugal, and Majorca. He has since lived in many parts of the world, most recently on Maui in the Hawaiian Islands. His many books of poems, prose, and translations are listed at the beginning of this volume. He has been the recipient of many awards and prizes, including the Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets (of which he is now a Chancellor), the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, and the Bollingen Prize in Poetry; most recently he has received the Governor's Award for Literature of the state of Hawaii, the Tanning Prize for mastery in the art of poetry, a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

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W.S. Merwin
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