W.S. Merwin

Former U.S. poet lauréate

31"x24" monotype and lithograph
Further variations and price on request



On the last day of the world
I would want to plant a tree

What for
And the fruit

The tree that bears the fruit
Is not the one that was planted

I want the tree that stands
In the earth for the first time

With the sun already
Going down

And the water
Drenching its roots

In the earth full of the dead
And the clouds passing

One by one
Over its leaves

31"x24" monotype and lithograph
Sold as a triptych

Perhaps (besides James Merrill) the most elegant poet I’ve worked with, William has a Japanese, distilled quality, hard to explain, but a reserve and knowing air, like a Haiku. After all, he lives in Haiku, Hawaii. I knew him when he lived in NYC. We met through a mutual friend, Francis Whitney, who was married to George Kirstein, publisher of the Nation, brother to Lincoln and their sister, Mina Curtiss. George regularly published his poems. 

I met him in a house on Union Square, not his, to choose the poem. He had recently lost his own toe-hold in Manhattan because an article in the New York Times mentioned he lived in a rent controlled apartment. The city reclaimed it, saying poets may be poor, but not that poor. When we met he had piled all his published books on the floor in front of him. They reached to his waist and he said, “Which poem from which book do you want to work with?” I was able to say, “You choose.” He chose Place, one of his most famous and accessible poems.  

In my part of any collaboration, I try and incorporate my sense of the poet, a trait, an aspect of them. His elegance and generosity are what struck me about William. There is always more behind what you’re shown. I felt the image created in torn and cut paper, collage,  conveyed some of this quality, and gives a sense of the haiku of the man. 

Years later, when 9/11 occurred, I still had a few sheets to work with.  I spontaneously made the images of the trade towers dissolving with Merwin’s poem inside them, counterpoint to such a tragedy. When we were with Maurice he asked if he could draw, too, and he drew the small red tree beside the poem. 

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