Remembering W. S. Merwin
Grace Cavalieri's Two Interviews with the Literary Giant
On Friday we lost a true hero of American poetry. Dignified from beginning to end, W.S. Merwin was not only one of America's finest literary exports, but one of its most prolific (an almost impossible feat for any career artist). During his life, Merwin published over 50 books of poetry and prose, and many translations. His poetry is in part famous for tackling urgent, often overlooked, environmental issues. Merwin was one of the loudest voices addressing the ever-dwindling rainforests of the Hawaiian Islands. This week, the world mourns for him. We reached out to Maryland Poet Laureate Grace Cavalieri. Grace interviewed Merwin on two occassions for her radio show, "The Poet and The Poem."
"In 2000, the bicentennial of the Library of Congress, four Poets Laureate were appointed just for the occasion. The four dignitaries were W.S. Merwin, Robert Pinsky, Rita Dove, and Louise Gluck. I was to record one after the other for 4 hours. That first meeting with Merwin was unforgettable, as he arrived for an hour interview without so much as one poem in his hands. Fortunately, I had brought ten books for his signature and we puzzled our way through. He was delighted to recognize some of his first slim published volumes that were out of print, as well as a few collector's items.
The second time I interviewed him was in 2010, when he was named U.S. Poet Laureate. He was so at ease and happy. His wife was accompanying him and they were loving and so sweet to be with. The one scoop I got in that interview was he designed his own house in Hawaii.
I treasure those times with my broken heart."
—Grace Cavalieri, Maryland Poet Laureate