W.S. Merwin


William Stanley (W.S.) Merwin was born in New York City in 1927 and raised in New Jersey and Scranton, Pennsylvania, the son of a Presbyterian minister. His numerous collections of poetry, his translations, and his books of prose have won praise over seven decades. Though his early poetry received great attention and admiration, Merwin would continue to alter and innovate his craft with each new book, and at each stage he served as a powerful influence for poets of his generation and younger poets.  For the entirety of his writing career, he explored a sense of wonder and celebrated the power of language, while serving as a staunch anti-war activist and advocate for the environment. He won nearly every award available to an American poet, and he was named U.S. poet laureate twice. A practicing Buddhist as well as a proponent of deep ecology, Merwin lived since the late 1970s on an old pineapple plantation in Hawaii which he has painstakingly restored to its original rainforest state. Poet Edward Hirsch wrote that Merwin “is one of the greatest poets of our age. He is a rare spiritual presence in American life and letters (the Thoreau of our era).” Merwin died in March 2019 at the age of 91. Source


The president of shame has his own flag

the president of lies quotes the voice

of God

at last counted

the president of loyalty recommends

blindness to the blind

oh oh

applause like the heels of the hanged

he walks on eyes

until they break

then he rides

there is no president of grief

it is a kingdom

ancient absolute with no colors

its rule is never seen

prayers look for him

also empty flags like skins

silence the messenger runs through the vast lands

with a black mouth


silence the climber falls from the cliffs

with a black mouth like

a call

there is only one subject

but he is repeated






Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Persona Poems


Literary Devices:


visually descriptive or figurative language, especially in a literary work


a comparison between two unlike things using the words “like” or “as”