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The Folding Cliffs: A Narrative (Paperback)
In this book-length verse narrative, modern master poet Merwin has interwoven the complex threads of Hawaiian history with the account of one family and community stricken with leprosy on the island of Kauai. At once epic and intimate, Merwin's chronicle also fuses the strains of cruelty, intolerance and greed in Hawaii's uniquely tragic past with the primal beauty of the islands themselves. I found this to be an uncommonly moving and rich reading experience.— From John
From a major American poet -- a thrilling story, in verse, of nineteenth-century Hawaii. The story of an attempt by the government to seize and constrain possible victims of leprosy and the determination of one small family not to be taken. A tale of the perils and glories of their flight into the wilds of the island of Kauai, pursued by a gunboat full of soldiers.
A brilliant capturing -- inspired by the poet's respect for the people of these islands -- of their life, their history, the gods and goddesses of their mythic past. A somber revelation of the wrecking of their culture through the exploitative incursions of Europeans and Americans. An epic narrative that enthralls with the grandeur of its language and of its vision.
About the Author
W. S. Merwin was born in New York City in 1927 and grew up in Union City, New Jersey, and in Scranton, Pennsylvania. From 1949 to 1951 he worked as a tutor in France, Portugal, and Majorca. He has since lived in many parts of the world, most recently on Maui in the Hawaiian Islands. His many books of poems, prose, and translations are listed at the beginning of this volume. He has been the recipient of many awards and prizes, including the Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets (of which he is now a Chancellor), the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, and the Bollingen Prize in Poetry; most recently he has received the Governor's Award for Literature of the state of Hawaii, the Tanning Prize for mastery in the art of poetry, a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.
"A major American verse narrative, of which we have too few of this quality. As an achievement it joins the very best of Merwin: The Lice, Travels, and The Vixen." --Harold Bloom
"A masterpiece...His work is like the best gift, unexpected, surprising, and, once considered, profoundly indispensable."--Jane Kramer
"A powerful revisionary telling of a powerful story that makes of a far-flung corner of American geography and history a central event for our national culture."-- John Hollander
"The Folding Cliffs is a masterpiece--a truly original masterpiece, on a very big scale. I could not put it down, and read it with a mixture of amazement and
admiration that went on growing to the last page. Merwin's sinuous, infinitely flexible voice has created a new kind of narrative verse: the tragic history of Hawaii, suffered through one family, told almost as if by a native, with a point-blank simplicity and effortless saga-like realism." --TED HUGHES
"A thrilling historical narrative--taut and skillful and full of lost values. Merwin creates a powerful poetic narrative with great intimacy and humanity." --MICHAEL ONDAATJE
"A bold and stunning chronicle of Hawaii, all the way back to its creation in past ages when volcanoes thrust upward through the blue surface of the Pacific--all beautifully fashioned in a rare epic poetry which is also a kind of transcendent prose. A classic." --PETER MATTHIESSEN
"A masterful narrative. What ensues within the structure of the community
becomes the story of our time. Through the hand of perhaps our most gifted poet, themes of cruelty and compassion, faith and despair, beauty and the loss of the native world around us, become the strands woven around a deeply spiritual story." --TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS
"The Folding Cliffs is a vision of love and violence that breathes with the vibrant life and tragic history of the Hawaiian Islands. At one masterstroke, W. S.
Merwin here restores to American poetry the narrative grandeur, mythic resonance, and sweeping moral scrutiny of an earlier age's epics. His book is an
astonishment that will quicken and enlarge the spirit." --J. D. McCLATCHY