W.S. Merwin is arguably the most influential American poet of the last half-century - an artist who has transfigured and reinvigorated the vision of poetry for our time. An essential voice in modern American literature, he was United States Poet Laureate in 2010-11. The Moon Before Morning is his first collection of new poems since The Shadow of Sirius (2009), which won him his second Pulitzer Prize. This new book written in his mid-80s finds him deeply immersed in reflection on the passage of time and the frailty and sustaining power of memory. Telegraphing between past and present, Merwin shows us the now still ferries of Weehawken Bergen Yonkers that first brought him home from the hospital as a baby, the early schoolhouse now destroyed, and the playground where his mother 'with an orphan's uncertainty / feeling that she was a stranger / wanting to do the correct thing' refused to leave his side.
He shows us, too, the feel of the trade winds as they move in on a Saturday morning in Hawaii, the silhouette of a palm against a darkening sky, and the once young hands, now suddenly old, engaged in the familiar motion of picking flowers, offering us, in these moments, a powerful and moving vision of the eternal. Poetry Book Society Recommendation.
'These poems are lyrical, majestic, sceptical and tenderly gorgeous meditations on time and the nature of perception. They are also technically thought-provoking. Since 1970 Merwin has abandoned punctuation and the resulting texts are thrilling processes in which syntax drifts in and out of focus, never a word out of place, and technique is made to carry metaphysical and psychological weight. Merwin intends the poem - because it must reflect human consciousness - to re-present a unified field of experience, especially of the temporal' - Martyn Crucefix, Poetry London. 'Merwin points his oracular, unpunctuated poems toward his own past, admitting, "I have only what I remember", and offering what may be his most personal, generous and empathic collection. Somehow, he manages to dissolve the boundaries between one time and another, seeming to look forward to the past or remember what has yet to happen - Gorgeous poems about enduring love melt time as well, looking toward a moment when we will be no older than we ever were' - Publishers Weekly. 'A fastidious, elegant writer, he is a calligrapher of consciousness, a fine penman aware that he is writing not on parchment but in water - Merwin is the unmistakable heir of the Emerson and Whitman who so ecstatically hymned flux' - M. Wynn Thomas, Guardian. 'He has attained - more and more with every collection - a wonderfully streamlined diction that unerringly separates and recombines like quicksilver scattered upon a shifting plane, but remains as faithful to the warms and cools of the human heart as that same mercury in the pan-pipe of a thermometer' - James Merrill.
W.S. Merwin was US Poet Laureate in 2010-11. He has received most of the principal prizes in American poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the Bollingen Prize and the Tanning Prize, and a Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award. As well as being an internationally renowned poet, he is the author of many classic translations, including editions of Neruda, Dante, The Song of Roland, The Poem of the Cid, and (from Bloodaxe) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. His latest titles from Bloodaxe are Selected Poems (2007), The Shadow of Sirius, which won him his second Pulitzer Prize in 2009 and was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation in the UK, and The Moon Before Morning (2014), also a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Born in New Jersey City in 1927, he taught at several universities, and now lives on the Pacific island of Maui, where he tends to his writing and to his garden of rare and endangered palm trees.