There are still such places within literature, especially within the poetry of established authors. And they are rich with image, with thought, with the scented wine of long mulling. For today, let the rivers of change wait for us -- W. S. Merwin's 2005 collection, PRESENT COMPANY, flutters its ribbons of poems in the soft breeze.
Each title in this collection begins with "To" and Merwin even allows a bit of humor with one title, "To ---." But for the most part these are thick, resonant ribbons of meditative discourse, of assertion from the pinnacle. And though the first entry is "To This May," the second asserts the terrain: "To the Soul":
Is anyone thereThere is no answer embedded in the rest of the poem, only a wave of the hand in dismissal even of the large question. And this is significant, because it is the smaller questions and notes, the niggling ones, that erupt in detail here. "To the Face in the Mirror" speaks to "you" -- "you with the white hair / now who still surprise me /day after day / staring back at me /out of nowhere."
are you real
This ribbon of aging, of surprised discovery, threads through the collection. I like "To the Grass of Autumn," where:
now you are as the fogFor those of us marveling at what time has done, is doing, here is a poet and set of poems, rarely formal but always as measured as a long stride, to capture the colors and chills, the soft and hard, of these years.
that sifts among you
gray in the chill daybreak
the voles scratch the dry earth
around your roots
hoping to find something
and when the white air stirs
you whisper to yourselves
or the need to know.
Of course, it's tempting to pick up a "new and selected" of Merwin's work, but this is a volume I'd recommend in its fullness -- all 100+ missives out to the universe and in to the heart.