I do not join in the universal adulation that Merwin receives, not because I don’t enjoy him, but because I feel that he published two amazing, near perfect collections and everything that has followed merely repeats those successes to diminishing returns.
However, one of those two books is the recently reprinted (in honor of its fiftieth anniversary) The Lice (the other is Carrier of Ladders).
Both tackle his most prominent themes: environmental destruction (which becomes tied up with our own mortality) and opposition to war.
There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said about this book. Now that it’s no longer nearly impossible to find, please look for it.
And don’t let me put you off the rest of his poetic career. He’s never done anything bad. I just don’t feel he’s done anything new since The Lice and Carrier of Ladders.
And I included an image of The Asians Dying because, while it’s unusually direct, is also perfectly devastating.