Terry Gross: Do you struggle to chronicle your life, to keep the photographs, to document it, to keep journals, to hold onto all the memories, or do you accept that you have only what you remember?

W.S. Merwin: I think we do both. I think we always do both. I think memory is essential to what we are. If we - we wouldn't be able to talk to each other without memory. And what we think of as the present really is the past. It is made out of the past. The present is - the present is an absolutely transparent moment that only great saints ever see occasionally.

But the present we think of as the present is made up of the past, and the past is always - one moment it's what happened three minutes ago, and one minute, it's what happened 30 years ago. And they flow into each other in waves that we can't predict and that we keep discovering in dreams, which keep bringing up feelings and moments, some of which we never actually saw.

transcript excerpt from Fresh Air interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet W.S. Merwin on NPR, December 16, 2008