Merwin and the Anthropocene
At the turn of the century, the term Anthropocene began gaining traction. Though still not formally accepted, the term suggests that the earth has moved into a new geological epoch due to the impact of human activities. That is, we have so impacted the earth that the human mark is written into its very geology, and will be present for epochs to come.
The Anthropocene, then, presents us with a reconception of our relationship with the earth. Like previous reconceptions (Galileo, Nasa’s photograph of the Earth, Gaia), the Anthropocene prompts us toward an existential grappling with the implications of being human on this earth.
In retrospect, poets like Merwin have been grappling with the implications of the Anthropocene for decades prior to the emergence of the term. Undoubtedly, his work has been seen as environmentally conscious, but the context of the Anthropocene charges that consciousness, intensifying the anguish and yet resolve found in Merwin’s work. To be environmentally conscious does not necessarily mean that one grapples with the implications of the Anthropocene; for that, one must have a sense of geological time, which Merwin does.
We seek essays that explore Merwin’s work as a poet, a planter, an essayist, and/or a translator in the context of the Anthropocene. The following questions are meant to open up (rather than limit) possibilities:
How does the Anthropocene intensify the tension between the pastoral and apocalyptic tropes in Merwin’s work?
At what point does a geological sense of time enter into Merwin’s poetics? How does that sense of time develop?
What is the relationship between the marks of humans upon the earth, extinction, and yet absence of punctuation marks in Merwin’s work?
How does a poetics of listening figure into Merwin’s grappling with the implications of the Anthropocene?
Is there even a fragile, distant hope? If so, is it authentic? If hope is the wrong word, what is the third of fourth facet in Merwin’s work that compels some readers to take-heart?
How does Even Though the Whole World Is Burning further articulate the extent to which Merwin has been grappling with the Anthropocene for decades?
How does Merwin’s work as a translator relate to his grappling with the Anthropocene? Is it an escape? Is it still part of finding a good way to live? How does it matter?
We welcome queries. Submissions due by August 1, 2015
Merwin Studies seeks submissions for articles on W. S. Merwin’s poetry, fables, essays, and/or life’s work planting. We are interested in pieces that explore his most current ventures, such as The Moon Before Morning (2014), but we are also interested in pieces that delve into his earlier work. With nearly seven decades of writing, there is much poetic energy to engage, explore, unleash, and compost. This is a place to get that real work done.
We are also interested in reviews of recent works by Merwin as well as reviews of secondary sources that explore Merwin’s craft.
We accept submissions year round (merwinstudies [at] gmail [dot] com). For more information, see our Submissions Page.