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Anticipating Merwin: The Shadow of Sirius Review
elizabeth mott 12 book reviewer
May 26, 2011

W. S. Merwin, in his most recent collection of poetry, The Shadow of Sirius, admits, “I have only what I remember.”

The 2010 Poet Laureate of the United States and winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize weaves moments and memories to create a series of luminous poems.

Merwin’s style is succinct. He abandons all punctuation and superfluous details in order to create a crisp, intimate image in each poem.

A master of light and darkness, Merwin details both “the unbroken sound of pure darkness / that went on all the time under everything,” and “the light / in the unspoken morning.”

He creates smoldering bronze sunlight and lengthening shadows, as well as “leaves…taking to themselves / the colors of sunlight / to keep them” and “a window kindl[ing] like a first star.”

He contemplates the meaning and beauty of remembering, remarking that “what we see comes again to us in secret” and calling on the reader to “see how the past is not finished / here in the present / it is awake the whole time / never waiting.” His lucid writing illustrates past events in the present tense, emphasizing the continuity of time. Merwin cherishes memory, saying: “I touch the day / I taste the light / I remember.”

Merwin also approaches aging and death with a clear-headed wisdom. He admits to his own “black dog” which leads him “carefully up the blind stairs” into loss of memory and the end of life. And he describes how “age seems to be without substance at any time.” He recognizes how his past composes him as a person, but how this person is the same for all time, recalling “the lucent days / from which now I am made.”

Next October, Merwin will be featured as an Academy Event speaker. Thanks to the Academy Events Committee, Merwin will arrive at Deerfield on Wednesday, October 12.

There will be a dinner that evening, followed by an hour-long reading of his poetry. On Thursday, from 11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m., an informal question and answer session will take place with interested students, faculty and staff.