W. S. Merwin Named Poet Laureate


Arts & Culture

We congratulate W. S. Merwin on being named Poet Laureate of the United States. Merwin published his first poem with the Review in 1955, and we have been proud to publish him ever since. Herewith, to celebrate his appointment (and for the pleasure of retyping it) one of his more recent contributions:

To the Long Table

The sun was touching the wet black shoulders of olives
in a chipped dish descended from another century
on that day I remember more than half my life ago
and you had been covered with a tablecloth of worn damask
for lunch out on the balcony overhanging the stream
with the grapes still small among the vine leaves above us
and near the olives a pitcher of thin black acrid wine
from the cellar just below and an omelette on a cracked white platter
a wheel of bread goat cheeses salad I forgot what else
the ducks were asleep down on the far side of the green pond
Jacques came and went babbling fussing making his bad jokes
boasting about old days that nobody else remembered
the lacquered carriages the plumes on the horses and what his mother
had replied to the admiral whose attentions amused her
all the castles they had lost before he had grown up
and when the meal was over he said you too were for sale
he had discovered you in a carpenter’s shop
where you had been used as a workbench without regard
for your true worth and the scars on you came from there
your history without words upon which words have gathered