Top 26 W. S. Merwin Quotes of 2020

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“As a child, I used to have a secret dread – and a recurring nightmare – of the whole world becoming city, being covered with cement and buildings and streets. No more country. No more woods.”

― W. S. Merwin

“What a great poem teaches you – and it’s not intellectual at all – is the resonance in the language that’s heard there. This goes back to the very origins of poetry and to the very origins of language.”

― W. S. Merwin

“I am too conscious of being an American to accept public congratulation with good grace or to welcome it except as an occasion for expressing openly a shame which many Americans feel, day after day, helplessly and in silence.”

― W. S. Merwin

“That’s a great gift to be given, that feeling of no fear.”

― W. S. Merwin

“I think memory is essential to what we are. If we – we wouldn’t be able to talk to each other without memory. And what we think of as the present really is the past. It is made out of the past.”

― W. S. Merwin

“Now all my teachers are dead except silence.”

― W. S. Merwin

“We are asleep with compasses in our hands.”

― W. S. Merwin

“Poetry is like making a joke. If you get one word wrong at the end of a joke, you’ve lost the whole thing.”

― W. S. Merwin

“The Indians seemed to be living in a place and in a way that was of immense importance to me. So I associate learning to read – English, oddly enough – with wanting to know about Indians. I’m still growing into it. I’ve never outgrown that.”

― W. S. Merwin

“The kind of writing that matters most to me is something you don’t learn about. It’s constantly coming out of what I don’t know rather than what I do know.”

― W. S. Merwin

“In a sense, much that is learned is bound to be bad habits. You’re always beginning again.”

― W. S. Merwin

“You have to be rather relentless about pushing other things out of the way. This activity of writing, which has no promises attached to it, comes to be given a kind of arbitrary but persistent importance.”

― W. S. Merwin

“The past is always – one moment it’s what happened three minutes ago, and one minute it’s what happened 30 years ago. And they flow into each other in ways that we can’t predict and that we keep discovering in dreams, which keep bringing up feelings and moments, some of which we never actually saw.”

― W. S. Merwin

“I think this is one of the benefits of getting older: that one has that perspective on things farther away. One is so caught up in middle years in the idea of accomplishing something when, in fact, the full accomplishment is always with one.”

― W. S. Merwin

“The idea of writing, to me, was, from the beginning, was writing something which was a little different from the ordinary exchange of speech. It was something that had a certain formality, something in which the words were of interest in themselves.”

― W. S. Merwin

“He said you should write about 75 lines every day. You know, Pound was a great one for laying down the law about how you did anything.”

― W. S. Merwin

“I can’t imagine ever writing anything of any kind on a machine. I never tried to write either poetry or prose on a typewriter. I like to do it on useless paper, scrap paper, because it’s of no importance.”

― W. S. Merwin

“We are the shadow of Sirius. There is the other side of – as we talk to each other, we see the light, and we see these faces, but we know that behind that, there’s the other side, which we never know. And that – it’s the dark, the unknown side that guides us, and that is part of our lives all the time. It’s the mystery.”

― W. S. Merwin

“The time of wisdom cannot be measured, and for me, wisdom is the garden. There is no time in the garden.”

― W. S. Merwin

“I go five steps in the garden, and I immediately lose track of time… it is a kind of joy in being alive in being in the world. I always found that in the garden. That is what it means to me.”

― W. S. Merwin

“The Arab world is erupting, which is extraordinary, and to see it happen is like watching rings spreading on a pool – it goes out; it varies so much. The spontaneity is wonderful, but very often, if it’s not well organized, it breaks up, and it peters out.”

― W. S. Merwin

“Jeffersonian democracy, faulty as it is, and only the fragment of it that we have, is a thing of such preciousness, a thing of such value.”

― W. S. Merwin

“Democracy’s got endless problems and faults and dangers, but it’s certain the alternatives are not better.”

― W. S. Merwin

“What turned me into an environmentalist, on my eleventh birthday, was seeing the first strip mine.”

― W. S. Merwin

“As soon as I could write with a little pencil, I was writing these little hymns and illustrating them, and I thought they should be sung in church, but they never were.”

― W. S. Merwin

“I think poetry is as old as language, and both come out of the same thing – an effort to try to express something that is inexpressible.”

― W. S. Merwin
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