Grotesque Discoveries and Divisions in W.S. Merwin’s “The Folding Cliffs”


The epic narrative poem “The Folding Cliffs” by W.S. Merwin reflects the idea of truth as a grotesque and divisive concept.  Because “The Folding Cliffs” is based on historical accounts and oral tradition, it could be posited that it is a nonfiction work or at the very least “based on a true story”. This paper examines the concepts of truth and the grotesque and the innate relationship between the two. Establishing a definition of the grotesque, based on the ideas of Wolfgang Kayser, I identify four principles of the grotesque and use them as a lens for reading Merwin’s work. The concept that truth is distorted has become especially pertinent in light of the emergence of creative-nonfiction and the debate over what constitutes truth. Using Merwin’s piece as a vessel, I argue that truth is a fallacious concept, and that all so-called truths are fleeting and influenced by experiences and imagination.
How to Cite
. Grotesque Discoveries and Divisions in W.S. Merwin’s “The Folding Cliffs”. Utah Foreign Language Review, [S.l.], v. 21, apr. 2014. ISSN 2165-4905. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 28 jan. 2023.


Merwin; Grotesque; Folding Cliffs