I am looking at trees
they may be one of the things I will miss
most from the earth
though many of the ones I have seen
already I cannot remember
and though I seldom embrace the ones I see
and have never been able to speak
I listen to them tenderly
their names have never touched them
they have stood round my sleep
and when it was forbidden to climb them
they have carried me in their branches
— W.S. Merwin, from The Compass Flower. Copyright © 1977 by W. S. Merwin. Used by permission of the publishers.
This poem was recently featured last month at the University of Arizona Poetry Center‘s celebration of the 50,000th book added to their collection. The 50,000th book, Trees, was a limited edition collaboration between W.S. Merwin and artist Charles Hobson, featuring Merwin’s poem.Housed in what looks like a pencil box, Trees opens up accordion-style to reveal the poem printed length-wise across the pages. Richly colored palm trees printed on transparencies emerge from the folds, hiding and revealing the text of the poem underneath as they’re turned.
Thirty copies were made in the spring and summer of 2010, soon after W.S. Merwin was named U.S. Poet Laureate. You can learn more about this project on Charles Hobson’s website. This edition of Trees has been sold out for sometime, but the Poetry Center was able to acquire the artist’s personal copy of Trees for its collection.
To see the unique and rare book being made, watch this stop-motion animation video below:
To browse through our archive of previously posted Poems of the Week, click here.
To support the preservation of W.S. Merwin’s legacy and our efforts to preserve his home and palm forest for future generations, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to The Merwin Conservancy.