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W.S. Merwin: His Life, His Words

A prezi about the life and the poetry of US Laureate poet, William Stanley Merwin

Emma Doeblin

on 11 March 2011

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Transcript of W.S. Merwin: His Life, His Words

W.S. Merwin September 30, 1927-Current Day His Life,
His Words Raised in Union City, NJ, the son of a presbyterian minister; he started off by writing hymns Merwin attended Princeton University
on a scholarship; he married his first
wife, Dorothy Jeanne Ferry, after staying at
Princeton an extra year to study romance
langauges--he then traveled Europe as the
tutor to wealthy families Merwin's first collection, A Mask for Janus (1952),was selected by W.H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize Merwin, after living in London for some time, came back to the US in 1956, for receiving a fellowship from the Poets' Theater in Cambridge, MA He then decided to abandon his verse plays to concentrate on poetry, seeking a more American vernacular and turning inward, toward more introspective and personal subjects His books written during this time were Green with Beasts (1956) and The Drunk in the Furnace (1960) In 1967, Merwin published the critically acclaimed volume, The Lice, followed by The Carrier of Ladders in 1970, both of which remain his most influential collections. In 1976, Merwin moved to Hawaii to study with the Zen Buddhist master Robert Aitken. There he married Paula Schwartz in a Buddhist ceremony in 1983. Merwin has published over twenty books of poetry. His recent collections include The Shadow of Sirius which won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize; Present Company (Copper Canyon, 2007); Migration: New & Selected Poems (2005) which won the 2005 National Book Award; The Pupil (2002); The River Sound (1999), which was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; Flower and Hand: Poems 1977-1983 (1997); The Vixen (1996); and Travels (1993), which received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. In 2010, Merwin was appointed the Library of Congress's seventeenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. His Life His Words His Poetry: Analysis His Inspirations Merwin's parents both had troubled pasts: his mother was an orphan who lost her brother and first child, and his father came from a violent home
These two aspects of his parents past became big inspiration for Merwin in his poetry After moving to Hawaii and converting
to Buddhism, Merwin started to be influenced
greatly by issues in the environment and anti war
poetry One of the Lives
by W. S. Merwin

If I had not met the red-haired boy whose father
had broken a leg parachuting into Provence
to join the resistance in the final stage of the war
and so had been killed there as the Germans were moving north
out of Italy and if the friend who was with him
as he was dying had not had an elder brother
who also died young quite differently in peacetime
leaving two children one of them with bad health
who had been kept out of school for a whole year by an illness
and if I had written anything else at the top
of the examination form where it said college
of your choice or if the questions that day had been
put differently and if a young woman in Kittanning
had not taught my father to drive at the age of twenty
so that he got the job with the pastor of the big church
in Pittsburgh where my mother was working and if
my mother had not lost both parents when she was a child
so that she had to go to her grandmother’s in Pittsburgh
I would not have found myself on an iron cot
with my head by the fireplace of a stone farmhouse
that had stood empty since some time before I was born
I would not have travelled so far to lie shivering
with fever though I was wrapped in everything in the house
nor have watched the unctuous doctor hold up his needle
at the window in the rain light of October
I would not have seen through the cracked pane the darkening
valley with its river sliding past the amber mountains
nor have wakened hearing plums fall in the small hour
thinking I knew where I was as I heard them fall This poem points out all of the
"what ifs" that we encounter That even the little things matter some,
and they can turn out to effect our lives more than imagined Stylistically, it uses parallel sentence structure to show how all of these things lead to another: because this happened, this happened, etc. He continues to use this structure throughout the poem. Additionally, he doesn't use any punctuation, which
accents the flidity of time, and how these things all just
flow together This poem talks about the regrets
of a son; how he left his father,
who wanted to tell him something
important, simply because he wasn't interested This poem was probably one inspired
by the lives of Merwin's parents His repetitive language is effective in portraying the situation as sad, or remorseful;the same ideas are being replayed, over and over Diction is also important in this poem; its simplicity and relative repetativeness as well make allow the message to sink in more deeply
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