- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: Bloodaxe Books Ltd (29 May 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1780371012
- ISBN-13: 978-1780371016
- Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 1 x 23.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 723,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Moon Before Morning Paperback – 29 May 2014
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...The Moon Before Morning is a book of drive, finesse and astonishing beauty...There are few great poets alive at any one time, and WS Merwin is one of them. Read him while he is still contemporary. --Fiona Sampson, Guardian
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
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
About the Author
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). 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.
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The poems are written without punctuation - but are in fact very easy to read and understand, partly because of the arrangements of lines and stanzas - clearly you don't actually need capital letters and full stops if other typographic devices are there to help you - and often very moving.
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The "deeps" are encountered here in profusion; the "place" that the Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitaro described as the platform, the base that undergirds the most profound reality. In Nishida's terminology, the "basho."
Speaking the unspeakable, Merwin writes,
oh gossamer gossamer breath
moment daylight life untouchable
by no name with no beginning
(from The Wonder of the Imperfect, p 92)
To traverse these deeps one needs to go beyond. But how? Who will be our Virgil? Only a contemplative poet speaks the unspeakable and only those with ears hear.
As in Tomas Transtromer's prose poem, "At Funchal," the beyond is made manifest in crisp lines which escape the half-awake reader:
"The innermost paradox, the underground garage flowers,
the vent toward the good dark. A drink that bubbles in an
empty glass. An amplifier that magnifies silence. A path that grows over after each step. A book that can only be read in
Thus the contemplative poet speaks in riddles to the man or woman of materialism and speaks to the soul of those who are paying attention.
Merwin's latest collection may indeed be his best by a variety of standards; it is among the most profoundly subliminal of all his layered work. The poems encounter the Tao in that place where all is incubating, all is pregnant with joy and darkness intertwined.
Merwin is a scholar of the secret flowers of the East, haiku and T'ang poetry, and it shows here again in THE MOON BEFORE MORNING. The fine point of haiku and the antinomian, contemplative philosophies of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu meet in his verse.
An airport is nowhere
which is not something
yet some unnamed person in the past
deliberately planned it
and you have spent time there again
for something you do not entirely remember
like the souls in Purgatory
(from Neither Here Nor There, p 70)
After a day and a night with Merwin in this transcendent collection, I can only encourage: let him take you to the place where moonlight pierces the branches, that place just before dawn, "le pointe vierge." Gone beyond the beyond.
Michael S Bever
co-author THE ART OF PAUSING