W.S. Merwin, my favorite poet

W.S. Merwin, who was the poet laureate two times, an environmental activist, and the author of my favorite poem, died yesterday (March 15) at the age of 91.

As a college sophomore, I was hesitantly taking a poetry workshop. When we were studying imagist poems, we were assigned several W.S. Merwin poems to read. “Separation” has stuck with me ever since.


Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.


In the video I shared last week, Naomi Shihab Nye who (of course) was friends with Merwin said, you need to find your poems. If you are looking for “your” poems, I think Merwin’s work is a wonderful place to start.

He has lived on an abandoned pineapple plantation in Hawaii for the last 30 years where he’s worked to restore the rainforest. From his time there, he wrote this poem:


On the last day of the world
I would want to plant a tree

what for
not for the fruit

the tree that bears the fruit
is not the one that was planted

I want the tree that stands
in the earth for the first time

with the sun already
going down

and the water
touching its roots

in the earth full of the dead
and the clouds passing

one by one
over its leaves

Isn’t he wonderful?

You’ll have to pardon me for sharing a few stories about his life. I think that obituaries are such a great place to learn about life (a gem I picked up from an episode of the “On Being” podcast).

NPR Obituary

AP Obituary

Thanks by W.S. Merwin


with the night falling we are saying thank you

we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings

we are running out of the glass rooms

with our mouths full of food to look at the sky

and say thank you

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