The Merwin Conservancy’s mission is to inspire innovation in the arts and sciences by advancing the ideas of W.S. Merwin – his life, work, house and palm forest – as fearless and graceful examples of the power of imagination and renewal.
To fulfill this mission, the Conservancy maintains the house and palm forest as a place of stillness and reflection for retreat, study, and contemplation through a residency program for creative visionaries and thought leaders from Hawaii and across the world. We engage both local and global communities through our Green Room literary and environmental salon series, through dynamic multimedia storytelling projects, and through innovative collaborations with various artistic, scientific and educational leaders and institutions.
“This is a voice that could save us.” – Naomi Shihab Nye
Few writers in the American literary canon are identified as closely to a place as W.S. Merwin is with his garden and palm forest on the island of Maui. Reminiscent of Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond or Rachel Carson and her Cottage at the Edge of the Sea, much of the later life and work of Merwin, twice Poet Laureate of the United States and a two-time Pulitzer prize winner, is indelibly tied to a setting that has spoken to him for forty years.
In addition to his peerless literary output — The Washington Post called W.S. Merwin “the greatest living poet of his time” — Merwin and his wife Paula transformed, day to day over four decades, eighteen barren acres of land into one of the largest and most diverse collections of palm trees in the world, and a sublime backdrop for their life together on Maui. Purchased in 1977, the property was condemned as “used up” from almost a century of sugar and pineapple farming. Painstakingly, through trial and error and with the help of experts in various fields, they discovered what species would grow, thrive and in turn restore the soil.
While its creation was an artistic act as profound as his poetry, the garden remains a direct testament to Merwin’s innate understanding of humanity’s place in nature, his concern for the future of the natural environment, his deeply held convictions about sustainability and renewal, as well as to the discipline and commitment redolent in his writing.
As a gift for generations to come, William and Paula Merwin will donate upon their deaths the extraordinary property and sustainable house they built together, to The Merwin Conservancy, a non-profit they founded on Maui. Thanks to the vision of this remarkable couple, henceforth The Merwin Conservancy will play a leadership role in promoting poetry and the literary arts, environmental education and restoration, and palm species preservation.
The Merwin Conservancy serves as a model for the power of the imagination and the possibilities of renewal.
Reflecting the values of its founders, William and Paula Merwin, the Merwin Conservancy is a sanctuary for stillness and wonder, encouraging renewal and imagination.