Summer 2000 • Vol. XXII No. 3/4 Book ReviewsJuly 1, 2000 |

The Substance of the Island: W. S. Merwin’s Lyrical Epic

The Folding Cliffs: A Narrative by W. S. Merwin. New York: Knopf, 1998. 331 pages. $25.00. From the very beginning of his career, W. S. Merwin has been one of America's most lauded and accomplished poets. His first book, A Mask for Janus, was selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets series in 1952. Since then, Merwin has won almost every award a poet can win: the Pulitzer Prize, the Bollingen Prize, the Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets, the Tanning Prize, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Only the Nobel Prize seems to be missing from Merwin's accomplishments. For now. And over the course of his career, Merwin has written in an astonishing variety of forms, from the carefully crafted formal verse of A Mask for Janus through the searing stripped-down free verse of The Lice (1967), to a variation on Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse (in Opening the Hand, 1983) and the long lines of his most recent collections, The Vixen (1996) and The River Sound (1999), not to men

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