May 2017 – November 2017

This immersive art installation was the first of many in the Meijer Gallery, one of our rotating exhibit spaces. It was inspired by the life and work of the American poet W. S. Merwin and meditates on Merwin’s capacity to invoke in his readers a sense of the wakefulness of the world.

W. S. Merwin won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1971 and 2009 as well as the National Book Award for Poetry in 2005, among many other honors. He was also named the United States Poet Laureate from 2010-11. In addition to his prolific and well-recognized writing, Merwin was also a staunch supporter of environment conservation and worked tirelessly to preserve the natural world. In 1977, with his wife Paula, he purchased a former pineapple plantation in Hawaii and over the course of four decades transformed that barren, unusable land into one of the largest and most diverse collections of palm trees in the world. The Merwin Conservancy, one of our Author Affiliate Homes, resides on this land and continues Merwin’s work today.

With live palm plants and a reconstruction of Merwin’s tool shed, along with a contemplative video and audio recordings of Merwin reading his work, Palm: All Awake in the Darkness was truly an immersive experience. Visitors were inspired to write letters or poems of their own, all of which were mailed to Merwin at his home in Hawaii, where they were read, appreciated, then composted to be used for soil and encourage new plant life and growth.

Palm: All Awake in the Darkness was created by artists Sayler / Morris in collaboration with Ian Boyden with sound design by Matthew Patterson Curry. It was commissioned by the American Writers Museum with support from the Poetry Foundation. Additional support from the Merwin Conservancy and the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University.

Palm: All Awake in the Darkness