In becoming U.S. Poet Laureate, W.S. Merwin saw an opportunity to talk about something that had been “a point on my compass all my life.” It wasn’t intelligence, he said during the reading that closed his term at the Library of Congress; “If you look at the morning papers you certainly wouldn’t think that we were the most intelligent of species.” Instead, he said, “to me it’s always without any doubt been the imagination.”
These unsettling times only magnify for me that the imagination—our capacity to envision other ways of being, living, and making—is essential. Essential to our spirits, our lives, perhaps even to our survival. And to put into practice what we imagine, as W.S. Merwin did here through a decades-long conversation with the land, is to bring about regenerative change.
We are designing a series of residency programs with this essential work in mind. To be sited in the Merwins’ home, the residencies we envision will foster the vibrant imaginations of writers, artists, policy makers, scientists, and others whose work opens up new vistas onto our world. We will host residents in a place that has long fostered a vibrant creative life, one that will continue to do so through our collective stewardship.
There are of course many unknowns between our current moment and our vision for the residency. The same is true for the programs we have paused during the pandemic, and those we are designing now. But our vision is clear, as are the steps we’ll need to take to realize it. I hope you’ll be with us for the special virtual event we are planning on September 30 to learn more, and to join us in stewarding W.S. Merwin’s legacy. Our original plans for a memorial event here on Maui, on the March anniversary of Wiliam’s death, may have been dashed, but we now have the opportunity, on the occasion of his September birthday, to gather with friends across the world. We look forward to inviting you –virtually, for now—into the home and garden that embody W.S. Merwin’s legacy.
Until then, I am sending warm regards,