Sunday, June 15, 2008


Chris Lehmann had a post today about a word-cloud utility called Wordle. I decided to try it with one of my favorite poems, W.S. Merwin's "Search Party." It's a poem I often share with my students, inasmuch as it speaks to the condition of being a lifelong learner. It's also got a Hawaiian connection: Merwin lives on Kauai, and maoli is the Hawaiian word for "native" or "natural" or "true."

Search Party

By now I know most of the faces
that will appear beside me as
long as there are still images
I know at last what I would choose
the next time if there ever was
a time again I know the days
that open in the dark like this
I do not know where Maoli is

I know the summer surfaces
of bodies and the tips of voices
like stars out of their distances
and where the music turns to noise
I know the bargains in the news
rules whole languages formulas
wisdom that I will never use
I do not know where Maoli is

I know whatever one may lose
somebody will be there who says
what it will be all right to miss
and what is verging on excess
I know the shadows of the house
routes that lead out to no traces
many of his empty places
I do not know where Maoli is

You that see now with your own eyes
all that there is as you suppose
though I could stare through broken glass
and show you where the morning goes
though I could follow to their close
the sparks of an exploding species
and see where the world ends in ice
I would not know where Maoli is

Here's the resulting graphic via Wordle:

Here's another based on Billy Collins' "Journal":

Fun stuff. Thanks, Chris.

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