This volume presents a collection of poems reflecting the author's life. Mysteries of light, darkness, temporality, and eternity weave throughout his poetry. His memories are focused and profound, of Pennsylvania miners and neighborhood streetcars, a conversation with a boyhood teacher or parent, the distinct qualities of autumnal light and gentle rain, well-cultivated loves, and "our long evenings and astonishment." From the universe's contradictions, the author once again calls upon the unexpected to illuminate existence.
The poems are exactly the kind I love to read – simple, straightforward with some surprising and highly pleasing insights. I will buy some more of his verse as I come across them. Considering the fact that he has published almost 30 volumes, I can’t bust my budget to complete the collection as I would like to do.
As is my custom when reading a volume of poetry, I mark ones I especially love for quoting here. I marked about 20 in Shadow, so I had a hard time figuring which I would quote. “Cold Spring Morning” kept popping up, so here it is:
“At times it has seemed that when
I first came here it was an old self
I recognized in the silent walls
and the river far below
but the self has no age
as I knew even then and had known
for longer than I could remember
as the sky has no sky
except itself this white morning in May
with fog hiding the barns
that are empty now and hiding the mossed
limbs of gnarled walnut trees and the green
pastures unfurled along the slope
I know where they are and the birds
that are hidden in their own calls
in the cold morning
I was not born here I come and go” (82).
I felt myself in this poem as I recalled that day back in 1993 when I moved to Texas – alone, knowing not a soul at the age of 45. If I can write one poem this wonderful, this powerful, and so full of truth – not only for me, but for some stranger who happens to read it, then I will be allowed to consider myself a poet.
You need to read Merwin. Over and over, and again and again. 5 stars
My favorite in this book was "Youth,"
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
But there is increasingly a chill in Merwin, a kind of persistent, deep in the bones kind of cold. "The Lice" also had sharp edges, scraps and shards of images, and the poems were as if read by an uneven voice. They fluctuated from astonishingly lucent to weirdly opaque.
His newer work is like a diffuse deep luminous fog. It is lovely, but textureless. Its surface is crossed by small brittle waves, worrying themselves over damp sand (that's partly from one of his images): he is reliably slightly troubled, and unconsolably deeply wounded, but also, sadly for his readers, at peace. After a while, reading the new Merwin, I feel cold, as if I have been walking too long on a foggy seashore. So I might, finally, after over thirty years, stop buying his books.
Six poems I particularly liked were "Raiment", "Inheritance", "Youth", "Recognition", "My Hand", and
"One of the Butterflies".