W.S. Merwin in Chicago

Not handfuls, but hundreds, lined up early in the corridor of the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago, October 6, to await poet W. S. Merwin's 6 p.m. reading. My family and I were lucky to be in the audience, fifth row center.

Merwin is 84, but his presentation–nearly two hours long–showed tremendous stamina, vitality, and, of course, the irresistible (to me) sensibility he's developed after decades of devotion to poetry and the land. During the extensive remarks he made between poems, Merwin described himself as a pacifict and ecologist. He described trees as places and reminded us, when you plant a tree, you make a place. The whole thing was so inspiring and full of outside-the-box thinking that I found myself wishing I'd brought everyone I know.

I wish it were easier for people to find their way to, as poet W. C. Williams wrote, "what is found there"–in poems.


2 Responses to “W.S. Merwin in Chicago”

  • Wini Says:

    I'm so glad you got to see Merwin! One of my favorite college memories is seeing him in Iowa City when I was an undergrad. A few years later, we spotted him in Greenwich Village in New York. We went up to him like pop-star fans and said, "Are you W.S. Merwin?" He was so approachable. "Why yes I am," he said, and he seemed really glad that we had said something to him.
    Nothing like seeing one of the major figures in American poetry! Lucky you. 

  • Alison Swan Alison Swan Says:

    Ah Wini, I recognized your voice before I even read your name. Thanks for sharing that moment. I was definitely a bit star-struck, even after so many years of readings.

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