Berryman, by W. S. Merwin, a YouTube Supercut (annotated)

Michael David Murphy
2 min readJun 14, 2022


What follows is an annotated version of “Berryman” by W. S. Merwin, including links to 78 source videos that appear in the fair-use supercut, below.



I will tell you what he told me

in the years just after the war

as we then called

the second world war

don’t lose your arrogance yet he said

you can do that when you’re older

lose it too soon and you may

merely replace it with vanity

just one time he suggested

changing the usual order

of the same words in a line of verse

why point out a thing twice

he suggested I pray to the Muse

get down on my knees and pray

right there in the corner and he

said he meant it literally

it was in the days before the beard

and the drink but he was deep

in tides of his own through which he sailed

chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop

he was far older than the dates allowed for

much older than I was he was in his thirties

he snapped down his nose with an accent

I think he had affected in England

as for publishing he advised me

to paper my wall with rejection slips

his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled

with the vehemence of his views about poetry

he said the great presence

that permitted everything and transmuted it

in poetry was passion

passion was genius and he praised movement and invention

I had hardly begun to read

I asked how can you ever be sure

that what you write is really

any good at all and he said you can’t

you can’t you can never be sure

you die without knowing

whether anything you wrote was any good

if you have to be sure don’t write