I first came across W S Merwin's poetry in Earth Shattering an anthology of environmental poetry edited by Neil Astley, which I reviewed here. So I was interested to read a full collection by this poet who has been described as a master of modern poetry.
W S Merwin is a poet who is closely connected to nature and many of the poems in this collection reflect that connection. He has a gift for arresting phrases: 'the sea remembering all of its waves' from Coming to the Morning and 'white gulls riding a knowledge older than they are' from The Salt Pond.
The poems in The Rain in the Trees mostly deal with loss -the loss of nature; the loss of a relationship, the loss of indigenous language and the insights that gave into landscape.
everything begins so late after allwhen the solitaires have already gone
and the doves of Tanna
when the Laughing Owls have
long been followed by question marks
and honeycreepers and the brown
bears of Atlas
the white wolf and the sea mink have not been seenby anyone living
from Before Us
Merwin's soft spoken insights mourn a world where too much loss is being taken for granted. He does offer hope though too:
I saw the duck catching
the colors of fire
as she moved over the bright glass
and I glided after
until she dove
and I followed in the white canoe
and look what I find
the world of the living
from The Duck
This is wonderful moving poetry, worth reading over and over, both for the beauty of the writing and for the connection with nature that is embedded in it.
The Rain in the Trees by W S Merwin, published by Alfred A Knopf