I gather that W.S. Merwin is going to be the new US poet laureate. This is such an excellent choice on so many levels it seems churlish to add that I’m also happy it pisses the wingnuts off–it’s like bonus points. No matter. He’s a superb poet, and, remarkably, an equally superb essayist and writer about place. Plus he’s into deep ecology. Among numerous awards, he received the 1971 and 2009 Pulitzer Prizes for poetry, and the 1979 Bollingen Prize.
Where to start? Really, if you haven’t read him before, pick up Selected Poems, from 1988, which includes some thirty-odd years of poems. But any of it, really, particularly The Lice. Essays? The Miner’s Pale Children was his first collection, and still reads well—and The Ends of the Earth. The Book of Fables is a charming and occasionally baffling collection of, yes, fables, published a couple of years ago, reminiscent of Calvino. He has also written some excellent books on France, including The Lost Uplands. Merwin’s first volume of poems was published in 1952, and he’s still writing superb and challenging poetry. Fantastic.