Streams

W. S. Merwin on Poetry

Monday, January 03, 2011

Poet W. S. Merwin talks about his collection of poems, The Shadow of Sirius, which earned him his second Pulitzer Prize. The poems focus on subjects from childhood and memory to age and, of course, dogs.

Guests:

W. S. Merwin

Comments [8]

Susan Rosen Koslow from Tenafly, New Jersey, I am ashamed to acknowledge

Given the brevity of time, the interview with W. S. Merwin had some gems, for instance, his comments about translation and punctuation and of course merely listening to him converse nimbly with you as well as hearing him read The Black Dog. Though that poem has intrigued me and I have read it repeatedly wondering about its origin, I wish that you would have allowed Merwin to read the poem he had selected. (why not have posted it after the interview?) Had you deleted the unnecessary question about how much money the poet received for the Pulitzer, there would have been time for the poem. Why did the listener have to know that information? And the Jersey connection was utterly forced; my goodness, Mr. Merwin has wandered far and wide and New Jersey is no longer rich in poets, and is it actually the cauldron of poetic creativity that you claim it to be? By the way you might take a trip to Union City and compare his autobiographical comments and poems about that Jersey town with Union City today. You will be surprised. Finally, W. S. Merwin is one of the great poets of the United States, a distinction recognized by his being named Poet Laureate. This status should certainly have been mentioned in the text introducing the interview. Time alone sifts honors, but I am confidant that W. S. Merwin will remain among the pantheon of the great. His poetry is pellucid, economical to an extreme, and uniquely humane. “witherest.” Thank you for having Mr. Merwin on your show.

Jan. 26 2011 09:07 PM
Dirk Johnson from Willits, CA

Thanks for the interview, but two clarifications. Problematic as his politics were, Ezra Pound did not "broadcast for Mussolini" and Ezra Pound didn't translate from Chinese without knowing Chinese -- he taught himself Chinese, and there has been a lot of scholarly work showing that he did a very good job of it. He wasn't simply imitating the sounds (which he couldn't possibly have heard by reading Chinese characters anyway if he didn't know Chinese).

Jan. 05 2011 02:54 PM
Wayne McEvilly

"If you're a poet you've got to take yourself seriously."
Thanks.
Wayne

Jan. 05 2011 02:45 PM
Grace Schulman from New York City

Thanks for presenting America's treasure, W. S. Merwin, whose wisdom, language and music are always inspiring. I have but one objection: New Jersey cannot claim Marianne Moore. She belongs to Missouri, her birth state, New York, her later home, and slightly to Pennsylvania, where she taught for a while. New Jersey is, of course, poetically rich with Merwin, Wilbur, Ginsberg, sometimes Whitman, and Gerald Stern.

Jan. 03 2011 04:05 PM
Caroline from NJ the Poetry State

Wonderful interview with a wise old dog, W. S. Merwin himself. Hearing his weathered yet remarkably vital voice was a great way to kick off the new year. Thanks Lenny!

Jan. 03 2011 01:14 PM
Kristen from Brooklyn

I enjoyed Mr. Merwin's insight on the importance of translation."Poor translation never ruined the original," true; but despite that, I am deeply moved by skillful translation of poetry from one language to another. I've been reading a bilingual edition of poems by Pablo Neruda, both the Spanish original and English translation... slowly, savoring both as parts of a wondrous whole. I've become more grateful for my knowledge of and fluency in Spanish; I've learned subtleties of the language I never knew. Poetry is a gift; translation of poetry is a gift that gives again.

Jan. 03 2011 01:10 PM
susy from manhattan

I love the idea of the black dog - while this poem may be about a real dog, there are many legends around black dogs. . . often the figure of a black dog is said to appear before certain events. It's a really powerful archetypal idea.

Jan. 03 2011 12:54 PM
JJ

In the late 80s you visited my college and hung out with the writer types. I asked you for advice about my aspirations and you told me to "go for it, man." Wrote it on a napkin.

I'm goin' for it and it's workin' out man, so wow, thanks alot. Napkin still up.

Jan. 03 2011 12:07 PM

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