Poetry Book Society Recommendation
New Statesman Book of the Year 2010
ìThe Shadow of Sirius, by the octogenarian American poet WS Merwin, won him a Pulitzer prize... It has a sense of life and energy. Most of all, it is a wonderful example of the wisdom that comes only with old age."
Jon Cruddas, The New Statesman
WS Merwin may be the most influential American poet of the last half-century ñ an artist who has transfigured and reinvigorated the vision of poetry for our time. Bloodaxe published his Selected Poems in 2007. Now in his eighties, Merwin has produced "his best book in a decade ñ and one of the best outright" (Publishers Weekly), and a collection which has won him his second Pulitzer Prize.
The nuanced mysteries of light, darkness, presence, and memory are central themes in his latest collection. "I have only what I remember," Merwin admits, and his memories are focused and profound-the distinct qualities of autumn light, a conversation with a boyhood teacher, well-cultivated loves, and "our long evenings and astonishment".
In 'Photographer', Merwin presents the scene where armloads of antique glass negatives are saved from a dumpcart by "someone who understood". In 'Empty Lot', Merwin evokes a child lying in bed at night, listening to the muffled dynamite blasts of coal mining near his home, and we can't help but ask: How shall we mine our lives?
"In his best book in a decade ñ and one of the best outright ñ Merwin points his oracular, unpunctuated poems toward his own past, admitting, 'I have only what I remember', and offering what may be his most personal, generous and empathic collection. Somehow, he manages to dissolve the boundaries between one time and another, seeming to look forward to the past or remember what has yet to happenÖ The poems show the marks of having weathered 'the complete course / of life', but also feel fresh and awake with a simplicity that can only be called wisdom: 'the morning is too / beautiful to be anything else'. Gorgeous poems about enduring love melt time as well, looking toward a moment when we will be no older than we ever were."
"Merwin writes with such lucidity and plainness that at times his poems seem to be transparent, opening directly on the images and emotions he evokes."
Ian Tromp, TLS
"In The Shadow of Sirius, Merwin has given to 21st-century poetry what Matisse gave to 20th-century painting with his late-in-life paper cutouts: the irreducible essence of his art. It is a gift that unites past and present, a gift of genius and love, a gift that consecrates a poet's life."
The Wichita Eagle
"A fastidious, elegant writer, he is a calligrapher of consciousness, a fine penman aware that he is writing not on parchment but in waterÖ Merwin is the unmistakable heir of the Emerson and Whitman who so ecstatically hymned flux."
M. Wynn Thomas, The Guardian
"The intentions of Merwin's poetry are as broad as the biosphere yet as intimate as a whisper. He conveys in the sweet simplicity of grounded language a sense of the self where it belongs, floating between heaven, earth, and the underground."
Peter Davison, Atlantic Monthly
"He has attained ñ more and more with every collection ñ a wonderfully streamlined diction that unerringly separates and recombines like quicksilver scattered upon a shifting plane, but remains as faithful to the warms and cools of the human heart as that same mercury in the pan-pipe of a thermometer."
"Ö W. S. Merwin is perhaps the most haunting voice in contemporary poetry. Evanescent yet dauntless, peering into darkness, his poems have a paradoxical strength that can make other writers seem lightweight by comparison."
Ned Denny, Daily Mail, Poetry Books of the Year