obviously you're not concerned with language as decoration

Interviewer: Do you see a connection between poetry and prayer?

W.S. Merwin: I guess the simple answer is yes, if only because I think of poetry as an attempt to use language as completely as possible. And if you want to do that, obviously you’re not concerned with language as decoration, or language as amusement, although you certainly want language to be pleasurable. Pleasure is part of the completeness. I think of poetry as having to do with the completeness of life, and the completeness of relation with one’s experience, completing one’s experience, articulating it, making sense of it.

I: How about the influence of Zen in your work?

WSM: When you talk about prayer in Judeo-Christian terms, prayer is usually construed as a kind of dualistic act. You’re praying to somebody else for something. Prayer in the Western sense is usually construed as making a connection. I don’t think that connection has to be made; it’s already there. Poetry probably has to do with the recognizing of that connection, rather than trying to create something that isn’t there.

- W.S. Merwin, recently crowned U.S. Poet Laureate, from a 1987 interview in The Paris Review. You can read an excerpt here, and the full interview here.

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