I have been pleasantly surprised by our readers interest in poetry. Since July when W. S. Merwin was been named Poet Laureate, I have been waiting to check out one of my library's copies of his books. We have only a few of the many that he has written, and they have been on loan constantly. Finally, I got an older title The Compass Flower from 1977 to see if his poems are truly as accessible as the poems of Billy Collins and Ted Kooser.
The Compass Flower has four numbered but not titled sections. I am not sure why they are grouped as they are, though it seems that the poems near the front of the book refer to city living and those in the back half seem to be set in the countryside or wilderness. Whether urban or rural, they all seem to be concerned with nature, including the weather, plants, and birds. They also frequently mention lovers, as the poet describes the sharing of experiences, specifically the moments captured in the poems. As I read, I imagined that Merwin lives a life of leisure, as he often seems to be pursuing pleasure and not working. Being in woods or mountains appeals to me, so I liked the latter part of the collection better than the first.
Is Merwin as accessible as Collins and Kooser? Judging by only reading one book written twenty something years into his over fifty year poetry career, I would say not. I often felt a little lost in his poems which seemed so personal. These poems also are not as witty as those of Collins and Kooser. Still, I enjoyed many of the vivid images and his thinking about nature. I especially liked "The Windows" on page 88 with its child's perspective. I remember as a boy looking at everything while hanging upside down.
I'll try another Merwin book soon. This one did not take long to read, and maybe we will click if I try again.
Merwin, W. S. The Compass Flower. Atheneum, 1977. ISBN 0689107684.