Present Company

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Overview

"In this new work from one of America's foremost poets, W. S. Merwin guides readers to universal themes through worldly specifics. Similar in tone and effect to Pablo Neruda's Elemental Odes, every poem in Present Company directly address the human encounters and ordinary objects of daily life, as in "To the Face in the Mirror" or "To Salt."" These poems to the world are fully engaged with living, are serious yet playful, inspiriting and full of wonder. Merwin recasts the particulars of the personal, and makes them profoundly universal. Whether
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Overview

"In this new work from one of America's foremost poets, W. S. Merwin guides readers to universal themes through worldly specifics. Similar in tone and effect to Pablo Neruda's Elemental Odes, every poem in Present Company directly address the human encounters and ordinary objects of daily life, as in "To the Face in the Mirror" or "To Salt."" These poems to the world are fully engaged with living, are serious yet playful, inspiriting and full of wonder. Merwin recasts the particulars of the personal, and makes them profoundly universal. Whether writing of an imaginary vehicle in "To Zbigniew Herbert's Bicycle" or watching fireworks from a distance in "To the Coming Winter," his poems create a rare and compelling intimacy.
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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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556592270
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2005
  • Pages: 120
  • 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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Table of Contents

To this May 3
To the soul 4
To a reflection 5
To the face in the mirror 6
To waiting 7
To impatience 8
To age 10
To lingering regrets 12
To my teeth 13
To the ancient order of legs 14
To my legs 16
To the tongue 17
To the gift of sight 18
To the corner of the eye 20
To the shadow 21
To another William 22
To history 23
To the unlikely event 24
To a departing companion 26
To Lili's walk 27
To a friend travelling 28
To the sorrow string 29
To - 30
To the consolations of philosophy 31
To grief 33
To absence 34
To the knife 35
To prose 37
To duty 39
To Billy's car 40
To the present visitors 42
To the present tense 43
To the air 44
To Muku dreaming 46
To the dust of the road 48
To that stretch of canal 49
To the blue stork 50
To the sound of the gate 52
To the stone paddock by the far barn 53
To a few cherries 55
To my mother 56
To my grandfathers 57
To my Aunt Margie 58
To my father's houses 59
To my brother 60
To Micky 61
To Doris 62
To the old 63
To the dog stars 65
To the tray dancers 66
To the mistakes 68
To luck 69
To the blank spaces 70
To the morning (I) 71
To Monday 72
To the long table 74
To the margin 75
To the middle 76
To the next time 77
To the light of September 78
To the words 80
To the grass of autumn 81
To ashes 83
To Zbigniew Herbert's bicycle 84
To the coming winter 86
To the smell of water 87
To the beginning of rain 89
To a mosquito 91
To glass 93
To purity 94
To salt 95
To the lightning 96
To the escape of light 98
To a leaf falling in winter 100
To the fire 101
To smoke 102
To forgetting 103
To the wires overhead 105
To a tortoiseshell lyre 106
To the gods 107
To the veil 109
To the way back 110
To the thief at the airport 112
To the afterlife 113
To finding again 114
To the surgeon Kevin Lin 116
To days of winter 117
To a friend turning fifty 118
To being late 120
To the morning (2) 121
To the moss 122
To an old acacia 123
To the story 124
To a dormouse 126
To the parting year 128
To the new year 129
To the unfinished 130
To Paula 131
To myself 132
To the happy few 133
To the book 134
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2005

    On Merwin: Words of Praise Fail

    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

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