Words of Awe

posted by Pearl Abraham

I attended the W.S. Merwin tribute at the 92nd Street Y on Monday night (courtesy of Beatrice.com) and came away with the feeling that I’d heard our prophets speak. Each of the three poets who read, by way of introducing Merwin, has a particular relationship with him and the poems they selected reflected that. Naomi Shihab Nye, whose work I don’t yet know, read, among other poems, a Lucille Clifton poem dedicated to W.S. Merwin; Edward Hirsch, who has an interest in Sufic writings, read some of Merwin’s more mystical work, including one about his black dog Molly, animals being a frequent subject of Sufic poetry; Gerald Stern spoke of and read poems set in NYC, specifically the Waverly Place walk-ups in which he and Merwin once lived. And then Mr. Merwin himself stepped out and read a selection of poems that ranged from his earliest books to most recent, some not yet published. W.S. Merwin’s words, the meanings they made, his quiet attentiveness to the natural world, and most palpably, his celebration of what’s good in this world imparted a numinous quality not often experienced at public events, sitting, as I was, in a near full house at the Y’s Kaufman Hall.

W.S. Merwin’s, Migration: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press), is a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry.

13 October 2005 | events |