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Migration: New and Selected Poems

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  628 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Winner of the National Book AwardA New York Times "100 Notable Books of the Year"
A powerful case can be made for declaring W.S. Merwin the most influential American poet of the last half-century. Migration: New & Selected Poems is that case.

As an undergraduate at Princeton, Merwin was advised by John Berryman to “get down on your knees and pray to the muse every day.” Over
Hardcover, 1st, 534 pages
Published 2005 by Copper Canyon
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Average rating 4.36  · 
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 ·  628 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Feb 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Funny to put "read" on this, as though I read it and it's back on a shelf... when it's really a touchstone book that I'm sure I'll read forever and ever. The poems are wonderful, layered, accessible and emotional. I love this book.
Mar 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2000s
If I were stuck on a desert island and could only take one book, this would be the one. Merwin is my favorite poet, and this is a very good collection of work from throughout his entire career.
Mar 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Poems that stand up to reading over and over at all different ages.
May 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
Poetry is something of a new venture for me. It takes patience and quiet. The book is full a good. I can't say I've read every single page and I don't know when you "finish" a book of poetry. But I'm going to give it a 4.
Nov 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book is pure, hypnotic luminous love. I read some of these to Diane in the last few days as she was transitioning on into the next realm. If poetry is appropriate for that journey, it's truly the work of the soul. Merwin, you did fantastic.
Mar 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Good selection spanning Merwin's career from his earlier cut-short pieces to his more recent, sprawling poetry. Dude knows his stuff. MY favorite poet, at any rate.
Aug 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I had to read this for school as well, and then Merwin came to residency to read from it and his new collection. Simply amazing! I will say that I prefer his later works.
Mar 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
He is really great. Or, perhaps more accurately, his writing is really great. So, by extension, I imagine he must be really great. He is really great.
Oct 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I think Merwin's poetry is some of the most beautiful writing around, and this collection does a great job summing it up. I tend to think his best work started in the late 60's...
Melissa Jackson
Mar 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Merwin is in a category all his own. His poetry is undeniably epic.
Erin Byers
May 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
He has always been one of my favorites.
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Another of my top 5 favorite poets. His writings integrate Buddhism and the life of the mind, and sorrow for the dying planet, and the complexities of love...truly wonderful!
Dawn Tripp
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Love this collection.
Timons Esaias
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I greatly enjoyed the experience of reading this "new & selected" compendium of most of Merwin's career. He was a fellow preacher's kid (the one time I met him, that's what we talked about), and likewise prone to the use of Classical reference, Biblical reference, and myth.

I was not very taken by the early poems in this volume, not making a positive marginal note until "Pool Room in the Lions Club" on page 66, from the fourth collection that's listed. I liked three poems from his next collection
Jul 29, 2010 added it
Shelves: poetry
I didn't get all the way through this one: I bit off more than I could chew with this 534-page retrospective. Some of the early stuff was gorgeous and mind-blowing, but I found myself liking it less as we crept towards the present day--more abstract, less accessible, and it just took more glasses of wine than I cared to drink on a weeknight to feel moved by the material. And since I've had it on my "currently reading" shelf for an entire year... So long, Merwin. I reserve the right to revisit th ...more
Jan 08, 2011 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Got from Aliza for my holiday present. Merwin is currently US Poet Laureate. He is good; his poems are very metaphorical (and beautiful). They take a lot of work. I will never finish this book. p.64. have to read many of the poems twice--his poetry is complicated--sometimes I have no idea what he is writing about until the second reading (or third or fourth)

20 Jan, I am putting this book down for a year or so.
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: prizewinners, poetry
Every April, inspired by National Poetry Month, my book group focuses one meeting on poetry. We read selections from this collection as well as some of Merwin's earliest and most recent work, but I kept finding my way back to this National Book Award winner. It has so much to offer-even for a pagan like me who only reads poetry one month a year.
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love this collection. Sure, not every poem will resonate with every reader every time, but I've found something in Merwin's work more often than in any other body of work. Merwin just keeps giving.
Katherine Collins
How can you not be intrigued by a poet who is famous for a work called The Lice? With lines like “My friends without shields walk on the target” and “I remember the rain with its bundle of roads”, I am inclined to read on and on.
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I'm not much a fan of poetry but the work of W.S. Merwin is an amazing experience to read.
Len Edgerly
May 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
W.S. Merwin is my favorite poet, and this is one of my favorite books of his.
Richard Subber
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
Merwin is a celebrity poet. Obviously, lots of folks like his poetry a lot more than I do.

Merwin’s poetry is over-formatted and under-structured. The early poems in Migration are rigidly presented in relentlessly similar stanzas, with unimaginative rhyming scattered throughout. Someone forgot to tell Merwin that three-line stanzas may be a constriction, not a liberation for the poet or the reader.

His later poems are burdened by his almost complete disdain for punctuation. His poems look like and
Patrick Gibson
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Re-reading on the passing (3/15/19) of William Stanley (W.S.) Merwin:

"Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveller
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what"
Oct 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is a rather large (over 500 pages) collection of poems, and I didn't really find a lot that I truly enjoyed (which surprised me). Three that did catch my attention:
- Bread - p191 (written for Wendell Berry)
- Yesterday - p245
- Another Place - p344
Janée Baugher
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Student of John Beryman with another book by the acclaimed publishers, Copper Canyon Press. I wanted to be dazzled. Alas, I was underwhelmed.
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is really cool.
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book has quickly taken a place in my life that I imagine the devoutly religious place their holy text. Merwin's poetry, often quite easily, takes the form of a spiritual nourishments such as in "Thanks" on page 280. The last stanza from Thanks in incredibly powerful to me,
"with the animals dying around us/ taking our feelings we are saying thank you/ with the forest falling faster than the minutes/ of our lives we are saying thank you/ with the words going out like cells of a brain/ with t
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Merwin's poems to me are like koans. They are not so much to be understood as to be objects of reflection and contemplation, less to wonder about what the poet was trying to say and more about the thoughts and feelings they bring up in the reader at the time and place they are read. In this sense, they can be different, new, and fresh every time you read them.
Jun 11, 2007 added it
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: poetry



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William Stanley Merwin was an American poet, credited with over fifty books of poetry, translation and prose.

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In most historical romances, love and marriage go together like...well, a horse and carriage. But what if the girl part of the girl-meets-boy...
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Be of this brightness dyed
Whose unrecking fever
Flings gold before it goes
Into voids finally
That have no measure.

Bird-sleep moonset,
Island after island,
Be of their hush
On this tide that balance
A time, for a time.

Islands are not forever,
Nor this light again,
Tide-set, brief summer,
Be of their secret
That fears no other.”
More quotes…