Sep. 30, 2008


by W. S. Merwin

Good Night

by W. S. Merwin


Through all of youth I was looking for you
without knowing what I was looking for

or what to call you I think I did not
even know I was looking how would I

have known you when I saw you as I did
time after time when you appeared to me

as you did naked offering yourself
entirely at that moment and you let

me breathe you touch you taste you knowing
no more than I did and only when I

began to think of losing you did I
recognize you when you were already

part memory part distance remaining
mine in the ways that I learn to miss you

from what we cannot hold the stars are made

Good Night

Sleep softly my old love
my beauty in the dark
night is a dream we have
as you know as you know

night is a dream you know
an old love in the dark
around you as you go
without end as you know

in the night where you go
sleep softly my old love
without end in the dark
in the love that you know

"Youth" and "Good Night" by W.S. Merwin from The Shadow of Sirius. © Copper Canyon Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of American writer Truman Capote, (books by this author) born in New Orleans (1924). When he was 17, he dropped out of school and got a job as an errand boy in the art department at The New Yorker magazine. He published his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, (1948) when he was just 24 years old. But after writing a few more novels, Capote said, "I want to live more in the world that other people live in." And so he decided to try writing journalism, and he published In Cold Blood in 1966.

It's the birthday of W.S. Merwin, (books by this author) born in New York City (1927). He was the son of a Presbyterian minister. He began writing his first poems when he was four or five years old. He majored in English at Princeton, then stuck around for an extra year as a graduate student studying Modern Romance languages. Then he left to travel around Europe, and he got a job for the BBC, translating classics from French or Spanish. He has translated poetry for most of his career, including works by Pablo Neruda and Dante. His first book of poetry, A Mask for Janus, came out in 1952.

Merwin lived in England and New York, and then he settled in Hawaii. He lives in Maui with his current wife, Paula, whom he married in a Buddhist ceremony 25 years ago. They live in a small house on the lip of a dormant volcano, where Merwin spends much of his days cultivating rare and endangered palm trees.

He wrote about his wife and his home in Hawaii:

I lie listening to the black hour
before dawn and you are
still asleep beside me while
around us the trees full of night lean
hushed in their dream that bears
us up asleep and awake then I hear
drops falling one by one into
the sightless leaves.

W.S. Merwin has never made a living in academia teaching poetry. Instead, he lives on $25,000 to $30,000 a year, earning money by doing occasional readings of his poetry, and living off prize money now and then.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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