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Present Company Hardcover – September 1, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press; First Edition edition (September 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556592272
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556592270
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,814,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Merwin's 24th volume of poems is his first since last year's massive new-and-collected Migration: it may be the much-lauded poet's clearest and most unified in many years, and it is almost certainly his most moving. Following Kenneth Koch's New Addresses, its 101 poems address a person, place, object or abstraction ("To the Shadow," "To the Stone Paddock by the Far Barn"). Almost all seek, and many achieve, a deliberate pathos over the passage of time: "I will wait and you can follow alone," concludes Merwin (who won the 1970 Pulitzer Prize) in "To Lili's Walk," "and between us the night has come and gone." Often stark, at times nearly imageless, the poems recall particular moments in Merwin's own life, comment on the act of writing or introduce gentle humor. ("To the Consolations of Philosophy" begins "Thank you but/ not just at the moment.") Some of the best, such as "To My Grandfathers," remember dead family members and friends. Short-lined free verse pieces "To the Soul" and "To Forgetting" may become new anthology signatures or provoke new attention to this elder statesman of American verse. The book's greatest weakness may be its length; so many lyric poems with similar structures and near-identical tones make it harder for the best few to stand out. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Each of the 100-plus poems in Merwin's meditative, playful, and lithely beautiful new collection, which closely follows the remarkable retrospective volume Migrations (2005), begins with the word To and directly addresses some aspect of nature or the self, a feeling or an idea, a person, place, or moment. Merwin keeps his language simple but his perceptions complex. Classical in their lines of inquiry and restraint yet vital in their attunement to the here and now, these personal odes and musings on daily existence and the cycles of life are, by turns, bemused and exalted. As Merwin moves from contemplating his reflection in the mirror to musing over memory, grief, duty, absence, purity, and the splendor of the earth, the subtle, wavelike motion generated by each poem infuses the collection with buoyancy and light.

Merwin is as refined and entrancing a prose stylist as he is a poet. Earlier works chronicle his experiences in France and Hawaii. In Summer Doorways, he circles further back in time to tell amusing and piquant stories of his years at Princeton during World War II, and of summers in the country that stoked his sense of wonder and mystery. Chance acquaintances led to Merwin's becoming a tutor to privileged boys in beautiful settings, including Genoa and Portugal. His splendidly detailed and sensuous descriptions (what a memory he has), especially of postwar Europe, are redolent in mood and precious historically. And he takes great pleasure in turning intriguing, exquisitely crafted portraits and anecdotes into lustrous recollections that capture lost time and trace the making of a poet. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


More About the Author

W.S. Merwin is the 17th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry of the United States. He is the author of over fifty books of poetry, prose, and translations. He has earned every major literary prize, most recently the National Book Award for 'Migration: New and Selected Poems' and the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for 'The Shadow of Sirius.' He lives in Hawaii where he raises endangered palm trees.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
How does one write critically about the abundant beauty of the poetry of W.S. Merwin? Long acclaimed as one of our most poignant and important poets, his newest collection is an endless stream of homages to fleeting thoughts, ideas, and other delicacies encounter by the informed eye and heart. Merwin keeps his language simple but continues to prod our senses with challenging concepts. In these one hundred odd poems he wanders through our perceptions and imaginations and strikes chords familiar and foreign, all with the flowing beauty of his carefully molded words.

These poems seem to be odes, not so much to people as to natural matters and objects and notions. In 'To a Falling Leaf in Winter': 'At sundown when a day's words/ have gathered at the feet of the trees/ lining up in silence/ to enter the long corridors/ of the roots into which they/ pass one by one thinking/ that they remember the place/ as they fell themselves climbing/ away from their only sound/ while they are being forgotten/ by their bright circumstances/ they rise through all the rings/ listening again/ afterward as they/ listened once and they come/ to where the leaves used to live/ during their lives but have gone now/ and they too take the next step/ beyond the reach of meaning.'

There are no adequate descriptives for Merwin's gifts. They are simply there for the savouring of those with quiet hearts to read and hear. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, October 05
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Emily C. on August 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Recovering from painful surgery, I read and reread W.S. Merwin's Present Company and was rewarded with solace, total honesty, beauty, lucidity, gracefulness, pathos. This is a book of lyric masterpieces by a master poet at the peak of his visionary, humane powers. There are too many poems to quote here. Among my favorites: To My Legs, To My Mother, To My Grandfathers, To Aunt Margie, To the Old, To the Long Table, To Forgetting, To the Gods, To the Sorrow String." Read them all and be reminded of the vast, magical power of truly great poetry. Find yourself changed -- and weeping.
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By SJ Wagner on April 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Shadow of Sirius introduced me to Merwin, a slender volume I read over and over, each time with greater understanding and depth because that is how he writes. His poetry is like a time release capsule, verses that border on the metaphysical where hidden meanings leach into the soul. Present Company was written before Sirius. They are basically odes not to specific people so much as...well, anything. Merwin does not disappoint. I always felt that Merwin was not only a poet who looks like one, but who was raised to be one; his destiny was in place from the git-go. Many consider him obtuse and that is why his books bear additional readings.
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