I am familiar with W.S. Merwin because Garrison Keillor has read his work often on The Writer’s Almanac. Merwin has written more than 50 verse collections in his 89 years. Visit the Merwin Conservancy for more on the poet, his work, and love for nature.
Garden Time, Merwin’s most recent work (I hope it’s not his last), is the only one I’ve read so far. I was very surprised by its brevity. I was drawn to it by its garden theme (apparently a favorite pastime for him). He also writes about memories, favorite places, love, and loss. In fact, as he was working on this, Merwin was dealing with losing his eyesight. I’ve watched people go through this, and it’s not fun. It absolutely sucks.
I enjoyed the entire collection. Two poems lodged in my memory and didn’t let go. Later, when I looked up specific details, I realized they were about paintings. Most of us think we can interact with art only in a visual way. In reality, many options exist. I hope that Merwin does not give up his interest in art.
One poem reflects on a work of the late Morris Graves, called “Blind Bird.” Here’s a picture:
Merwin based the poem “The Mapmaker” on Vermeer’s The Geographer. Here’s a really fabulous interactive page that explains the painting’s details.
And the painting:
Last fall, I wrote about Picture This tours at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The article starts on page 10. The tours are intended for people who have low vision, but everyone is welcome. They alternate between the East Building and West Building the last week of each month, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Attendees examine one or two paintings in depth. I have attended several of these since the story was published, and it helped me to see in different ways.