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Reading “Thanks” by W.S. Merwin



Poetry Lunch S1E3

Reading “Thanks” by W.S. Merwin from The Essential W.S. Merwin published by Copper Canyon Press.

This is the third installment of Poetry Lunch, a weekly series where I read a poem to you around lunchtime PST and then archive it here so you can watch anytime you want including, maybe, lunchtime at your time wherever you happen to be.

Gosh I feel awkward on camera! But committed to continuing and it is lovely to take a few moments and sink into a poem midday. The poems I’m sharing may or may not have prints associated that I’ve done but they are all connected, through my thinking and living and wondering with poetry. Poems help me live.

This one I have gone to many times over when I don’t know what to say when things are bad and hard. It reminds me I can still say thank you. The other place I’m reminded of that is outdoors and it’s no coincidence the book this poem is in looks like a field guide. It was designed that way to honor how Merwin lived and breathed with trees especially.

Which brings me to another connection! The excerpt by Victoria Chang that I opened my newsletter with last week comes from her just-about-out book The Trees Witness Everything. One of the constraints she used in writing it was taking titles of Merwin’s poems as the starting point for the new ones she wrote. Such a beautiful way to continue the conversation poetry is always inviting us to.


Related print



Please one more⁠
kiss in the kitchen⁠
before we turn the lights off⁠

W.S. Merwin⁠


This is the poem I printed that came from the photo in the back cover of the book. It is Merwin's last published poem, and I printed it in his own handwriting.⁠

People often ask me what this print says and I've learned to let them struggle with it. The poem is typeset on the back of the print and I always have this urge to flip it over and show someone when they first encounter it. Then I think of artist and calligrapher Suzanne Moore, who I showed early proofs of this to when I was trying to decide whether to put the typeset poem on the front or not, due to legibility concerns (always SUCH a concern to me!) and I hear her voice asking:

“Why not let the mystery live a little longer?"


Links to purchase

Get the book here: The Essential W.S. Merwin and the print here: Wish.