Poets in Old Age

I’ve just been trying to say something intelligent (difficult in the best of times) about a new poem from an old poet, W. S. Merwin’s “Early One Morning,” published last year when he was about to turn 89. I have very much enjoyed that volume, Garden Time, and the previous one, The Moon before Morning, published two years earlier. That got me thinking about his contemporaries who lived and wrote well into old age, especially his Princeton roommate Galway Kinnell, along with Robert Bly and Adrienne Rich. I mentioned once before that very few poets, historically speaking, have seen the far side of seventy, much less written there. Theirs is the first generation to have so many writing into their eighties. What, then, might we learn from explorers of an almost-undiscovered poetry?

I once thought it would be interesting to do a group study of several poets first as young poets–not juvenilia, which is so juvenile, but as still-young poets who have arrived–then as poets in their prime (whenever that is) and finally as poets in old age. I’m not sure I have the energy or imaginative architecture to undertake such a project, but I wish someone would. And get a move on, would you?