W.S. Merwin—Poetry and Prompts

In honor of W.S. Merwin, I’d like to share a few of his poems and let his brilliance inspire more poetry. If any of these prompts do resonate with you, please acknowledge his influence by using “After W.S. Merwin” or a similar method.

For the first prompt, use the title “For the Anniversary of My Death” as a ghostline. Ask yourself what will remain after you go? How do you now pass that unnamed day? Where are you or what activity are you in the middle of when that faint breath of mortality sighs along the back of your neck? 


For the second prompt, let’s use Chen Chen’s favorite poem, and one that brings an ache to my throat. I am amazed at the power of these three lines. Your prompt is to describe the color of absence in three lines. Do not mention the word “absence” anywhere but in your title. 


For the third prompt, think what words “will be buried with us”? What words do you carry with you, hear in the dark well of your sleep, and wait to rise and bear witness in your heavy bones, trapped within your rib cage until all and everything are freed to the sky? 


I find this photo of him by Jill Greenberg particularly lovely.  


Photo: Jill Greenberg/Courtesy of Copper Canyon Press  (found in NPR’s article “Poet W.S. Merwin, Who Was Inspired by Conservation, Dies at 91”)