IF there’s such a thing as an “old soul,” then W.S. Merwin surely is one. This has been evident over a long career, in his questioning, vatic voice and dreamy, meticulously crafted poetry. It’s clear in his poems’ commitment to the big mysteries and their explorations of archetypal disquiet, infinite bereftness and protective tenderness toward Mother Earth. You can even discern glimmers of Merwin’s abiding identity as post-Presbyterian Zen poet and channeler of ancient paradoxes by comparing two iconic jacket photographs of this lionized writer, now nearing 80.
The early one shows a tousle-haired, vigorous dude in work shirt and jeans. Unapologetic Vietnam War protester, winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets award conferred by W.H. Auden (another poet apparently not fond of his Christian names), translator from a handful of romance languages, Merwin gazes straight into the camera’s lens. Clear-eyed and calm, he’s not exactly smiling. His mouth sits a bit crooked, which makes him appear quizzical. His expression suggests that while observing the current moment, he is also navigating strange interior lands.
more from the LA Times here.