Elucidates the unique voice of a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet
Describing W. S. Merwin as a moral poet, H. L. Hix identifies the characteristics that have set Merwin's voice apart and suggests that an underlying vision of human interconnectedness and affinity with nature permeates his poetry. Hix surveys Merwin's oeuvre to show that despite a reputation for difficulty and obscurity, his verse is clear and direct.
Through close readings of Merwin's verse, Hix traces the emergence of the poet's dominant thematic concerns. Beginning with the interest in myth that permeates "A Mask for Janus", Merwin's focus turns successively to apocalypse, ecology, and society, until he arrives at one theme that incorporates all the others: the theme of place. Hix demonstrates that whether writing the angry protest poems of The Lice or the intimate family reminiscences of Opening the Hand, Merwin maintains that our isolation from each other and our isolation from the natural world are parallel and interrelated.
H. L. Hix is a professor of philosophy in the Liberal Arts Department of the Kansas City Art Institute. His book of poems Perfect Hell won the Peregrine Smith Poetry Award.
"W. S. Merwin can be a difficult poet for critics. It is not uncommon for a book on Merwin to ignore his early poems completely, neglecting the important relationship they bear to his later work. H. L. Hix's new book avoids this failure. Hix's thorough close readings trace Merwin's thematic development and smartly illuminate how Merwin's later writing grew out of his earlier more traditional poetry. The facility with which Hix draws out Merwin's work is impressive."—Harvard Review