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Present Company

Present Company

5.0 1
by W. S. Merwin

“One of America’s greatest living poets.”—The Washington Post Book World

“Merwin keeps his language simple but his perceptions complex. Classical in their lines of inquiry and restraint yet vital in their attunement to the here and now, these personal odes and musings on daily existence and the cycles of life are, by turns,


“One of America’s greatest living poets.”—The Washington Post Book World

“Merwin keeps his language simple but his perceptions complex. Classical in their lines of inquiry and restraint yet vital in their attunement to the here and now, these personal odes and musings on daily existence and the cycles of life are, by turns, bemused and exalted . . . each poem infuses the collection with buoyancy and light.”—Booklist

Now in paperback, W.S. Merwin’s latest masterwork—which reviewers have described as “meditative,” “playful,” and “lithely beautiful”—guides readers to universal themes through worldly specifics. Akin to Pablo Neruda’s Elemental Odes, every poem in Present Company directly addresses the people and things of daily life, as in “To the Thief at the Airport” or “To Lingering Regrets.”

“To This May”

They know so much more now about
the heart we are told but the world
still seems to come one at a time
one day one year one season and here
it is spring once more with its birds
nesting in the holes in the walls
its morning finding the first time
its light pretending not to move
always beginning as it goes

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Merwin's 24th volume of poems is his first since last year's massive new-and-collected Migration: it may be the much-lauded poet's clearest and most unified in many years, and it is almost certainly his most moving. Following Kenneth Koch's New Addresses, its 101 poems address a person, place, object or abstraction ("To the Shadow," "To the Stone Paddock by the Far Barn"). Almost all seek, and many achieve, a deliberate pathos over the passage of time: "I will wait and you can follow alone," concludes Merwin (who won the 1970 Pulitzer Prize) in "To Lili's Walk," "and between us the night has come and gone." Often stark, at times nearly imageless, the poems recall particular moments in Merwin's own life, comment on the act of writing or introduce gentle humor. ("To the Consolations of Philosophy" begins "Thank you but/ not just at the moment.") Some of the best, such as "To My Grandfathers," remember dead family members and friends. Short-lined free verse pieces "To the Soul" and "To Forgetting" may become new anthology signatures or provoke new attention to this elder statesman of American verse. The book's greatest weakness may be its length; so many lyric poems with similar structures and near-identical tones make it harder for the best few to stand out. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The eight lyrical odes included in Merwin's recent Migration: New & Selected Poems were harbingers of this full-length collection. Nearing 80, the Pulitzer Prize winner seems especially mindful of age and mortality, and these poems-like a series of heartfelt thank-you notes-offer homage to the things of this world. In a manner that recalls the cool, spare diction of H.D., Merwin addresses the local and the nondescript ("To the Dust of the Road"; "To a Mosquito") as well as the abstract and the universal ("To Purity"; "To Absence"). In the plainest language possible, he attempts to tease out the essence of the things that he personifies. The tongue is "you for whom/ all the languages have been named." Mistakes are "the ones who/ were not recognized/ in time." In the corner of his eye, "a moment/ appears before I/ can recognize it/ yet when I turn to face you/ you have stepped aside/ leaving me only/ the look of things/ I once thought I knew." The emotional timber rarely rises above muted melancholy, and Merwin's thoughtful, measured pace never quickens, but the poems are suffused with a warmth and clarity achieved over six decades of disciplined dedication to his art. Recommended for larger poetry collections.-Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Copper Canyon Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

W.S. Merwin is one of America's leading poets. His prizes include the 2005 National Book Award for his collected poems, Migration, the Pulitzer Prize, the Stevens Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and Lannan Foundation. He is the author of dozens of books of poetry and translations. He lives in Hawaii, where he cultivates endangered palm trees.

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Present Company 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
How does one write critically about the abundant beauty of the poetry of W.S. Merwin? Long acclaimed as one of our most poignant and important poets, his newest collection is an endless stream of homages to fleeting thoughts, ideas, and other delicacies encounter by the informed eye and heart. Merwin keeps his language simple but continues to prod our senses with challenging concepts. In these one hundred odd poems he wanders through our perceptions and imaginations and strikes chords familiar and foreign, all with the flowing beauty of his carefully molded words. These poems seem to be odes, not so much to people as to natural matters and objects and notions. In 'To a Falling Leaf in Winter': 'At sundown when a day's words/ have gathered at the feet of the trees/ lining up in silence/ to enter the long corridors/ of the roots into which they/ pass one by one thinking/ that they remember the place/ as they fell themselves climbing/ away from their only sound/ while they are being forgotten/ by their bright circumstances/ they rise through all the rings/ listening again/ afterward as they/ listened once and they come/ to where the leaves used to live/ during their lives but have gone now/ and they too take the next step/ beyond the reach of meaning.'There are no adequate descriptives for Merwin's gifts. They are simply there for the savouring of those with quiet hearts to read and hear. Highly recommended. Grady Harp