W.S. Merwin (b. 1927)

A selective list of online literary criticism for American poet and translator W.S. Merwin, favoring signed articles by recognized scholars, articles published in reviewed sources, and web sites that adhere to the MLA Guidelines for Web Sites


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introduction & biography

An introduction to W.S. Merwin includes brief excerpts of reputable critical discussions of some poems: On "The Drunk in the Furnace"; On "It Is March"; Broadside Version of "For a Coming Extinction"; Manuscript Versions of "Caesar"; On "The Room"; On "December Among the Vanished"; On "For the Anniversary of My Death"; On "The Asians Dying"; The First Draft of "The Asians Dying"; On "For a Coming Extinction"; On "Looking for Mushrooms at Sunrise"; On "The Gardens of Zuñi"; About John Wesley Powell--Background to "The Gardens of Zuñi"; On "Beginning" ; On "Sun and Rain"; Merwin's "Notes for a Preface"; On "The Horse"; Merwin--On Political Poetry ; Merwin--On Ecology; About the Vietnam War; Merwin--"What is American about American Poetry?"; Merwin on Poetic Meaning and Translating Dante. Ed. Cary Nelson. Modern American Poetry (U of Illinois).

"W. S. Merwin." Biography, selected poems, links to related poets. Academy of American Poets.

"Groundbreaking Book: The Lice by W. S. Merwin (1967)." Academy of American Poets.

"W. S. Merwin." Poetry Foundation. Ed. Catherine Halley. Biography, introduction to Merwin's themes and techniques, selected poems.

To sleep among icicles. On W.S. Merwin's "brave attempt to modernise Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." The Guardian, 21 February 2004.

"A master gardener of verse." By Elizabeth Lund, The Christian Science Monitor, 24 April 2003.

"Armchair Traveler: W.S. Merwin." Merwin discusses his time in the French countryside in the 1950s. Audio clip, National Public Radio (NPR), 7 Aug. 2003.

"Aloud." Short introduction to Merwin from the Los Angeles Public Library: "W.S. Merwin's recent poetry is perhaps his most personal, arising from his deeply held beliefs. He is not only profoundly anti-imperialist, pacifist, and environmentalist, but also possessed by an intimate feeling for landscape and language and the ways in which land and language interflow." March/April 2005.

"W.S. Merwin." A web page from Merwin's publisher, with blurbs on several of his books.

"W.S. Merwin." A web page from Merwin's agent.

The NY Times page on W.S. Merwin has Times reviews of his books from 1957-1993 and news articles on Merwin [registration required].


literary criticism & reviews

Bass, Jerry. A review of The River Sound (1999) by W.S. Merwin "In an age of loss on every side, the loss of biological, cultural, and experiential diversity, no poet has more to offer us than W.S. Merwin. We can only begin the work of salvage or restoration by understanding the full extent of what we have lost and are losing. And here we have no more eloquent witness than W.S. Merwin." The Richmond Review.

Bryson, J. Scott. "Seeing the West Side of Any Mountain: Thoreau and Contemporary Ecological Poetry." Jack Magazine, 5.

Publisher's blurb for Ecopoetry: A Critical introduction (U of Utah P 2002) which covers W. S. Merwin, and Wendell Berry and others.

Cook, Albert. "Metrical inventions: Zukofsky and Merwin." College Literature, Oct. 1997 [At Questia, subscription service].

Howard, Richard. A review of The Vixen (Alfred A. Knopf). Poet Richard Howard compares the work to Tennyson's In Memorium. The Boston Review, Summer 1996.

Frazier, Jane. "Lost Origins: W. S. Merwin's Poems of Division." Discusses W.S. Merwin and the natural world: "To Merwin, the ideological and physical distance between ourselves and nature that we have increasingly created has divided us from our most important psychic resource and the basis of our Being." Weber Studies 14, 2 (Spring/Summer 1997).

Lerner, Ben. A review of Migration: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press 2005). "The publication of Migration: New and Selected Poems provides us with the opportunity to track in a single volume W.S. Merwin's evolution from traditional verse forms to unpunctuated lyrics that, at their best, seem to hover just above the page like heat above the highway." Jacket Magazine 28 (Oct. 2005).

Merwin, W.S. "Preface to East Window: The Asian Translations." From "Translating Asian Poetry: A Symposium." Manoa 11, 2 (1999).

Scigaj, Leonard. Review of Sustainable Poetry: Four Ecopoets. Reviewed by A. Flinn, who notes that for Scigaj "deconstruction and its postmodern heirs are anathema to ecopoetry." RMMLA 54, 1.


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