On "The Room"
In "The Room" he admits that "I think this is all somewhere in myself" and goes on to describe a bird trapped in a room in the stillness before dawn: "the sounds of a small bird trying / From time to time to fly a few beats in the dark / You would say it was dying it is immortal." The note of defiance is a deliberate affirmation, a denial of what could be perceived as failure. Instead of negatively twisting experience that might be positive, as in "In Autumn," he affirms as positive an image that might seem negative. (Imagine "In Autumn" ending with such a strong statement as this: "Those are cities / Where I intend to live.") Merwin's acceptance that the room is within himself allows him to intervene at the end.
By Edward Brunner. From W.S. Merwin: Essays on the Poetry. Copyright © 1987 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
In "The Room" he writes of a frail survivor whose apparently approaching death is really the imprint of inexhaustible renewal. Of course one version of poetic renewal is reading. Thus "The Room" is also about our reading the poem. "I," therefore, is not only a poet speaking--the pronoun belongs equally to the reader, so "all this" is the text we contemplate. . . .Finality, for Merwin, is endlessly repeatable.
By Cary Nelson. From W.S. Merwin: Essays on the Poetry. Copyright © 1987 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
And even death itself not only calls us to the void but gives us a vantage point from which to view and sing of the processes which worship it. . . .
The bird sings both to and against death, and in his singing of his own mortality he gives us a model for a form of immortality once again within process.
By Charles Altieri. From W.S. Merwin: Essays on the Poetry. Copyright © 1987 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
Return to W.S. Merwin