Merwin's Garden.

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Author: Dana Isokawa
Date: Sept-Oct 2019
From: Poets & Writers Magazine(Vol. 47, Issue 5)
Publisher: Poets & Writers, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,132 words
Lexile Measure: 1300L

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On the northern coast of the Hawai'ian island Maui, off a road leading down to the cliffs above the shore, a lush forest grows. Mango trees covered in vines stand next to palms as tall as eighty feet, while heliconia and hibiscus grow far beneath the canopy. Palm fronds and ferns wave in the air. The grounds are shady and quiet. And in the middle of the garden sits a two-story wooden house filled with books, the home of poet W. S. Merwin, who until his death at the age of ninety-one on March 15, tended to the thousands of palms and plants growing on the surrounding nineteen acres.

Merwin lived in the garden, which includes one of the world's finest collections of palms, for more than forty years. In December the Merwin Conservancy, which the poet and Paula Merwin, his wife, established in 2010 to protect the garden and encourage others to create their own artistic and ecological practice, will become the owners of the house and garden. "We are preparing to take on this kuleana--a Hawai'ian word that means responsibility but also implies incredible honor," says Sonnet Kekilia Coggins, the conservancy's executive director. "Merwin's beloved garden was a product of his imagination and will be the site of inspiring and fostering imagination in others for years and years to come."

Merwin acquired the land in 1977 after moving to Maui to study with the Zen Buddhist master Robert Aitken. He had already published and translated several books of poetry and won his first Pulitzer for his 1970 poetry collection, The Carrier of Ladders (Atheneum). When he purchased the property, previously part of a pineapple plantation, the soil had been ruined from...

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