In a recent Facebook post, Barack Obama listed three books he’s recently read and wanted to share. One of them was one of the late poet W. S. Merwin’s – “The Shadow of Sirius“. Obama wrote:
One of the great poets of our time, W. S. Merwin, passed away recently. A brilliant writer and conservationist, Merwin spent the final period of his life on a former pineapple plantation in Hawaii, working to restore the surrounding rainforest. … I’ve drawn inspiration from Merwin’s writing because it teaches us about ourselves, our world, and how we as humans connect to nature. Most of us don’t spend a lot of time on poetry but Merwin’s death reminded me of how a good poem can inspire and instruct. So if you’re in the mood, give one of them a try.
Obama’s pointer took me to a recently published collection of Merwin’s poetry: “The Essential W. S. Merwin“. Yesterday, on Father’s Day, I was flipping through this collection and happened to come across his poem “The Unwritten” which I really enjoyed. It’s about a pencil – and how the pencil holds words “that have never been written, never been spoken, never been taught”. He concludes with:
it could be that there’s only one word
and it’s all we need
it’s here in this pencil
every pencil in the world
is like this
And, that word is not just in every pencil in the world – but in every human too!…
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash
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