The United States has a new Poet Laureate, and his name is W.S. Merwin.
I must admit, as a proser I was unfamiliar with this two-time Pulitzer Prize winner’s work. In fact, I wasn’t aware that the United States even had an official poet. (How cool is that?) Thank you, NPR, for shining the light into my darkness. Listening to this story while sitting in my car, I heard this handsome octogenarian read one of his earlier poems. It has haunted me for days, and now I will share it with you.
Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
After I heard him recite this poem, I craved more. So I looked for his work on the shelves of a local bookstore and found only one. I settled into a comfy chair, flipped open to the first poem in the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Shadows of Syrius,” and read. As I read, a most unusual thing happened. My eyes welled up. Has that ever happened to you as you’ve read poetry? Poetry has inspired me before, but this was the first time poetry moved me to tears.
I didn’t have the money to purchase the book, so I left it at table near the front of the store and hoped someone else would pick it up and be so moved. When I got home, I surfed for more W.S. Merwin online and found the most marvelous site. UniVerse gives readers access to the most celebrated poets from countries all over the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Their work is a window into their respective cultures.
Representing the United States on UniVerse would be W.S. Merwin. From his home on an old pineapple plantation on Mauai, our country’s 17th Poet Laureate has performed his job as “ambassador of poetry” in the life of this one American. Thank you, Mr. Merwin. And God bless America.