on life, music etc beyond mainstream

It was years ago when I ordered an anthology with American poetry in the library just to browse. There were only two poems by W.S. Merwin, whom I never heard of, and immediately I was intrigued. I could feel a real und deep experience behind the sentences, but there was a strong element of surrealism and magic, too, and it was this mixture I loved. I bought the books where the chosen poems had taken from: “The Lice” (1967) and “The Carrier of Ladders” (1970), and some of the poems have been my favourites since then and I appreciated them more than German poems of that time.

No poet in Germany seemed to know Merwin, who was born in 1927, but in the US he is famous, a two-time Pulitzer winner. This year two books with translations and originals of Merwin´s poems were published in German publishing houses: “Nach den Libellen” (Carl Hanser Verlag) and “The shadow of Sirius / Der Schatten des Sirius” (Leipziger Literaturverlag). In one of the forewords I got the hint for a feature documentary about the life and work of W.S. Merwin, titled “Even though the whole world is burning”. Someone said in this film, people who read Merwin have been affected by his word – I mean affected for life. And I could confirm this, even though it were only a few of his poems, sometimes only a few lines, that hit me strongly and unforgettable.

When Merwin was 21 years old, in 1948, he visited Ezra Pound, who was declared for mentally ill, in Elisabeth hospital in Washington to ask for some advice to become good as a poet. (Just imagine that action itself!) Ezra Pound recommended Merwin to travel and to translate. Merwin lived several years in France and returned to the US. His generation´s ailment is the Vietnam War. In the Seventies Merwin studied Zen Buddhism and emigrated to Hawaii and as I watched the beautiful landscape and the coast line in some way it felt so familiar and immediately I thought of LOST, the series some of the Manafonistas including me are enthusiastic about and which is mostly set in Hawaii. Merwin is not only a very productive poet and of course he changed his poetological approach over time, but he´s also an environmental activist. He did change the climate on Hawaii. He made it 5 degrees colder due to the trees he planted.

This entry was posted on Sonntag, 11. November 2018 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Sounds a bit like a latter day Merlin 😉

    Maybe, apart from changing the climate in Hawai, he too might have followed his obsessions of rain making and cloud dancing.

  2. Martina Weber:

    I´m sure he´d be able to do that :)

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