Poet laureate W.S. Merwin’s poem “To the New Year” (collected in the book Present Company) was read aloud at the end of the memorial service tonight in Tucson. This beautiful poem helps to capture the emotions in the wake of such a terrible tragedy.
The miracle of poetry, more than any other type of writing, is how resilient it is, how perfectly it seems to have been written for certain occasions. The Merwin poem, of course, was not written for tonight’s ceremony, but it could have been. It’s as if the poem knows more than the poet. It’s as if the poem knows, if it is good enough, it will be used for many purposes beyond what the poet could have imagined.
The reading in Tucson reminded me how much I love Merwin’s work, and it also reminded me of a collection of poems gathered by Georgia Heard in the aftermath of 9/11, another national tragedy.
Thank you, W.S. Merwin, for being our poet laureate.
Thank you, Georgia, for the gift of this poetry collection.
And thank you both for reminding us that poetry has the power to heal.