W.S. Merwin has planted more than 800 species of palm trees on his Maui property during the past 30 years and has written a like number of poems over the course of a career that stretches back twice that long. Although chronologically octogenarian, Merwin remains vital and active. His most recent collection, The Shadow of Sirius, ranks among his best. Apparently the Pulitzer committee agreed with that appraisal, awarding him his second big P prize. The poems' luminous punctuation-free ruminations probe those soul-searching moments when memory lingers in silence and questions unremembered need to be asked. "Poetry is about what cannot be said," once remarked the man who's been plucking meaning out of the Big Mystery on a regular basis. Within a short time last summer, two major events reshaped Merwin's personal world: he was named U.S. poet laureate and his palm-filled Hawaiian acreage was made a nonprofit conservancy. It's a sustainable moment for the bard, as he deservedly takes on a more public presence, and his beloved tropical mini forest's continuing legacy seems assured. Entertaining, wise and sonorous, Merwin's words are best read in quiet solitude and best heard aloud in a packed hushed room.
Wed., Feb. 16, 4:30 p.m., 2011