Poetry and Gardening

Musings from the days of a creative writer/gardener with a true appreciation for nature, meditation, and poetry.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

W.S. Merwin: Poet Laureate

Though my garden is sprouting only Echinacea/Cone Flowers and my roses have been cut back to the quick of their lives (because of the rampant Japanese beetles), I have been thinking about gardening, still, and I realize that I need to continue writing about poetry and gardening, even if gardening is not uppermost in my mind at this moment.  I thought that I would devote today's blog to the items in my garden that are medicinal.  I was going to talk about echinacea and foxglove, but when the news came this morning that W.S. Merwin would be named poet laureate, I thought I would write about him instead.

Merwin is one of those poets with whom I connect on many different levels.  First of all, he grew up with those poets in the 1960s who wrote of freedom and activism; secondly, he is a Buddhist, thus I understand the weighted simplicity of his words; thirdly, he is committed to preserving the land beneath his feet, and since he lives in Hawaii, that land is exceptionally beautiful; and finally, I always thought he was one of the most romantically handsome of the poets who have written during the last thirty or so years.  (Look at some of his earlier photographs!)

I think we have made a good choice in Merwin, though I don't believe he'll do as many personal appearances as other poets.  He does have a distinctively American voice, unapologetic, multi-layered, full of angst about his family and the world around him.  I look forward to seeing what he will create for this country.

And, of course, he has written about gardens:

What is a garden

All day working happily down near the stream bed

the light passing into the remote opalescence

it returns to as the year wakes toward winter

a season of rain in a year already rich

in rain with masked light emerging on all sides

in the new leaves of the palms quietly waving

time of mud and slipping and of overhearing

the water under the sloped ground going on whispering

as it travels time of rain thundering at night

and of rocks rolling and echoing in the torrent

and of looking up after noon through the high branches

to see fine rain drifting across the sunlight

over the valley that was abused and at last left

to fill with thickets of rampant aliens

bringing habits but no stories under the mango trees

already vast as clouds there I keep discovering

beneath the tangle the ancient shaping of water

to which the light of an hour comes back as to a secret

and there I planted young palms in places I had not pondered

until then I imagined their roots setting out in the dark

knowing without knowledge I kept trying to see them standing

in that bend of the valley in the light that would come


The wet bamboo clacking in the night rain

crying in the darkness whimpering softly

as the hollow columns touch and slide

along each other swaying with the empty

air these are sounds from before there were voices

gestures older than grief from before there was

pain as we know it the impossibly tall

stems are reaching out groping and waving

before longing as we think of it or loss

as we are acquainted with it or feelings

able to recognize the syllables

that might be their own calling out to them

like names in the dark telling them nothing

about loss or about longing nothing

ever about all that has yet to answer