W. S. Merwin’s “Remembering Summer”


We are but 11 days away from the shortest day of the year and the start of winter, December 21st. What better day to celebrate a new Merwin poem called “Remembering Summer”?

It’s found in William Stanley’s newest collection, Garden Time, that title itself a relic of summer, at least here in the northern, freeze-your-nonnies-off zone. (That’s Shakespeare talk: “Hey, nonny-nonny.”)

The poems in this book take a page out of the Pole Zbigniew Herbert’s stylebook. Meaning: The first word of each poem is capitalized, as is the pronoun “I” (which looks admittedly foolish and adolescent when it’s lower-cased) but, beyond that, everything is as low as the e’s in cummings with no punctuation to speak of (just don’t speak of it to your 6th-grade English teacher).

Anyway, as walking the dog this week hasn’t been as simple and straightforward as it used to be, given the temps in the 20’s Fahrenheit and the wind in your face, let’s reminisce, shall we?

“Remembering Summer” by W. S. Merwin

Being too warm the old lady said to me
is better than being too cold I think now
in between is the best because you never
give it a thought but it goes by too fast
I remember the winter how cold it got
I could never get warm wherever I was
but I don’t remember the summer heat like that
only the long days the breathing of the trees
the evenings with the hens still talking in the lane
and the light getting longer in the valley
the sound of a bell from down there somewhere
I can sit here now still listening to it

Ah, yes. The hens. The bells. I’m not sure where Merwin lives and writes, but I have a feeling New York City isn’t it. And if he did, would he really want to remember summer in such skyscrapered, police-sirened environs? Summer only stretches out and sleeps in its true languorous loveliness in the country, seems to me.


One thought on “W. S. Merwin’s “Remembering Summer”

  1. The hens. The Bells. They time the vanishing stresses of today. In the city; the cooking smells, the sirens. Where ever it is, it will be the familiar of the locals. I hope everyone can take their evenings in the languorous poetry of what they wish home to be,


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