W.S. Merwin's new collection "Garden Time" and young poet Adam Fitzgerald's "George Washington" received a joint review in Tuesday's New York Times.
Poetry lovers might complain that the collections didn't receive separate reviews, but freelance reviewer Jeff Gordinier's piece is another sign that poetry at least has returned to the edges of the cultural mainstream.
Considering the two in tandem made for an interesting review, with Gordinier discovering affinities between the long-established older poet and rising new one despite their differences in subject matter and style. Gordinier observes that Fitzgerald's title like the hit musical "Hamilton" shows that the millennial generation is displaying an increased awareness of the nation's founding and history.
The review is the latest indication that the Times is giving more attention to poetry in its daily Arts section and Sunday Book Review, a trend that likely began when more readers turned to poetry after Sept. 11. The New Yorker also frequently reviews poetry collections, giving attention to a new generation of writers advancing the art by reflecting a changing landscape of cultural references and colloquial speech.
At 32, Fitzgerald is part of this shifting perspective, according to the review, which cites his reliance on pop culture, including TV, video games, childhood toys and fast-food.
Merwin, 88, writes about nature and changing seasons, as if the currents of modernism and post-modnerism over the last nearly 120 years had never occurred. Yet, Gordinier finds similarities between the former poet laureate and Fitzgerald in their preoccupation with memory. That is the common coin of all poetry, as formally expressed by Wordsworth at the advent of Romanticism.
One postmodern characteristic of Merwin receives comment: His abhorrence for punctuation, which gives his poems an extra musical dimension.
Not too long ago, I heard Merwin read at Emory University in Atlanta, and he marvelously portrayed the poet as wise sage and social healer. Merwin, with his environmental work creating a spaceship Earth of endangered plants on his plantation in Hawaii, is worthy of the Noble Prize.