THE COMPASS FLOWER by W. S. Merwin

THE COMPASS FLOWER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

W. S. Merwin has gotten along well for several volumes now without punctuation, putting the burden of sense on the verse and the stanza structure--and the burden of understanding on the reader. This quirk he carries along in The Compass Flower. The verse is still elegant, the vocabulary plain, and the punctuation absent. This new book is somewhat more concrete; here and there a face emerges, a scene can be identified, the poet detected as a living man. A father appears, a lover, an especial fig tree, once (in ""The Windows"") a fully-fleshed chill, observing the world upside down from between his knees. Merwin has traveled and translated in many countries, EÃ…stern as well as Western, and his allusions are not easy to trace. The most ambitious poem here, ""Kore,"" is clearly a reworking of the Demeter-Persephone story (though nothing like Tennyson's version!) with hints of Psyche and Eros added, and each of the twenty-four stanzas given a letter of the Greek alphabet as side-note. Perhaps it is overweighted; it never quite floats. But the book in general is vintage Merwin and no doubt many of its pieces will reappear when he collects his poems. As he concludes: ""before and after/ in house after house that was mine to see/ the same fire the perpetual bird.

Pub Date: Jan. 27th, 1977
Publisher: Atheneum