In 1954, at the age of 25 W.S Merwin received his first poetic honor from the Yale Younger Poets, accordingly and as a testament to the young man’s promising potential the publishing was only his first. Marked by his formal and classical style, Merwin’s early days were of both spectacular success and promising potential. As the rather destitute son of violent, grief-ridden family, Merwin was privileged with the presence of renowned mentors and strong academics alike; no doubt an influential upbringing. Over a five-decade career, Merwin has held the title of one of the most prolific poets of his time. Although he has written essays, plays, translations of French, Spanish, Latin, and Portuguese and even written television scripts, his poetry has transcended criticism and time alike. He has published over twenty volumes of poetry, in multiple languages. However W.S Merwin has and will not be judged by his lengthy resume of poetic praise, but rather celebrated as “testing the bounds and power of language through imagery driven by the quest for knowledge of the human condition”.
Merwins early days were marked by his rather formal and classical style. His poetry dealt a great deal with classical literature and mythology of mainly Western Europe (although he dabbled in Middle-Eastern additionally). Robert Graves heavily influenced his earliest works, a man he knew fairly well. Many of his poems featured animals and mythical allusions. However his early work and success soon gave way to a more mature and independent style. Eight years later, Merwin began to develop a more autobiographical way. He experimented with metrical irregularity and as a result his poems became less orderly and controlled. He played with the forms of indirect narration and developed on contemporary poetic trends.
More recently, Merwin has developed an extremely loose, free flowing style, almost Zen-like as some have come to describe. His latest poems are dense and imagistic, emulating his love of nature and pacifism. His poems have taken on a dream like quality; full of praise for the natural world. The rigidity and regimental style of old has given way to free flowing verse, employing unconventional stylistic measures. His affinity for nature and its beauty have become his influence, as he alludes to tropical rainforests often.
It is hard to conceal the trend of W.S Merwin’s poetic style. Much like the interests and influences of his private life, his poetry has evolved from the academic rigidity of his youth, to the Zen-like openness of his accomplished current state. Nonetheless Merwin has become one the most prolific poets of recent memory. He continues to write in his Hawaii pineapple plantation atop a dormant volcano on the coast of Maui.