Flower & Hand: Poems 1977-1983

W. S. Merwin, Author
W. S. Merwin, Author Copper Canyon Press $15 (172p) ISBN 978-1-55659-119-8
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 10/01/1996
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To uncork vintage Merwin is to find poetry that has lost none of its elegance. In this selection of poems taken from The Compass Flower (1977), Feathers From the Hill (1982) and Opening the Hand (1983), Merwin is often less concerned with the flow of a sentence than he is with the call and response of individual words that bubble through his unpunctuated lines. Hear the echo of a downpour, for instance: ""The rain of the white valley the clear rain / the rain holding the whole valley while it falls / the mountain rain the high rain onto the mountain."" Elsewhere, as the collection's title suggests, the elements of the landscape and the textures of the body hope to forget their boundaries and meld: ""frost would design me and dew would disappear on me/ sun would shine through me/ I would be green with white roots."" In lieu of commas Merwin sometimes places a double-spaced gap in mid line. The caesura is especially effective in a series of poems that focus on the death of a father: ""As the shadow closed on the face once my father's/ three times leaning forward far off she called/ Good night in a whisper from before I was born/ later through the burial a wren went on singing."" The empty space reflects the son's loss; the silence amplifies its surrounding imagery. (Mar.)
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