Two Memories of W. S. Merwin

Christopher Merrill and Alice Quinn at The Paris Review:

The sun was setting in Hawaii on a spring day in 1995, when W. S. Merwin invited me into his study to hear him recite a new poem, and since he did not care to turn on the lights I listened to the last stanzas of his “Lament for the Makers” in near darkness. His study had a sacred aspect—its door was to remain locked whenever I house-sat for him and his wife, Paula, during their travels to the mainland and then to their place in the Dordogne. This atmosphere was heightened by his melodic voice, which in my mind bore traces of the hymns he had composed as a child for his Presbyterian minister father in Scranton, Pennsylvania. A palm frond crashed into the ravine beyond the lanai, on which a pair of sleeping chow chows did not stir. William recalled his departed poet-friends: “One by one they have all gone / out of the time and language we / had in common which have brought me”—and here his voice began to crack: “to this season after them.”

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