From the Computer Archives: Review of The Shadow of Sirius

For a short time I was a regular reviewer for the Library Journal. Somehow this review of Bill Merwin's recent book never made it into their esteemed pages. One of the fun things about reviewing is getting to rave about a book you love before it hits the bookshops. I was sorry this one got lost in the shuffle. Here it is in the ether (if not in print) for the first time.

Merwin, W.S., The Shadow of Sirius; Copper Canyon Press; 117 pages; 978-1-55659-284-3
Can wisdom be both searing and playful? Is it rooted in the specific dirt of memory or does it reside in a more universal view? The language in this collection responds with an all-embracing Yes! The poet startles us awake simultaneously in our bones and in a yearning that our bodies cannot hold. It is no secret that the author is a master craftsman of the written and unwritten word, producing some of his most startling work within the last few years, but this book seems even more precise, more profound. The reader travels seamlessly through ninety-three poems that switchback between myth, biography, and the blue heaven that is Merwin’s Hawaii. What one finds most pleasing in the reading of these poems is how time compresses into the past and future at once. See how the past is not finished / here in the present / it is awake the whole time. And this idea plays out in a mobius strip of content. Light and shadow lengthen into images of dog grief and love of coffee. Sails and wings, hands and stars operate as amulets within the collection, guiding us through history, both personal and eternal. Whether describing the roofer, Duporte, or the Chinese poet Li Po, Merwin imbues our world with elegance, and dare we say it, love.


  1. I've read The Shadow of Sirius at least three times. It's become one of my favorite collections.

  2. Hi Maureen,

    Glad to hear it. Have you heard him read in person? His voice is mesmerizing ---deep and musical. If you go to Elizabeth Austen's blog you can also hear a great interview with him. It was aired on KUOW, our NPR station in Seattle.

  3. How lovely! Glad to see your review here!


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