James Ingram Merrill was an American poet whose awards include the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1977) for Divine Comedies. His poetry falls into two distinct bodies of work: the polished and formalist (if deeply emotional) lyric poetry of his early career, and the epic narrative of occult communication with spirits and angels, titled The Changing Light at Sandover, which dominated his later career. Although most of his published work was poetry, he also wrote essays, fiction, and plays.
James Ingram Merrill was born in New York City to Hellen Ingram Merrill and Charles E. Merrill, founding partner of the Merrill Lynch investment firm. He had two older half siblings ... more »
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James Merrill Poems
An Urban Convalescence
Out for a walk, after a week in bed, I find them tearing up part of my block And, chilled through, dazed and lonely, join the dozen In meek attitudes, watching a huge crane
The Broken Home
Crossing the street, I saw the parents and the child At their window, gleaming like fruit With evening’s mild gold leaf.
Voices from the Other World
Presently at our touch the teacup stirred, Then circled lazily about From A to Z. The first voice heard (If they are voices, these mute spellers-out)
The panes flash, tremble with your ghostly passage Through them, an x-ray sheerness billowing, and I have risen But cannot speak, remembering only that one was meant To rise and not to speak. Young storm, this house is yours
The Puzzle is no Puzzle
A card table in the library stands ready To receive the puzzle which keeps never coming. Daylight shines in or lamplight down Upon the tense oasis of green felt.
I peered into the crater’s heaving red And quailed. I called upon the Muse. I said, “The day I cease to serve you, let me die!” And woke alone to birdsong, in our bed.
Then when the flame forked like a sudden path I gasped and stumbled, and was less. Density pulsing upward, gauze of ash, Dear light along the way to nothingness,
Somnambulists along the promenade Have set up booths, their dreams: Carpets, jewelry, kitchenware, halvah, shoes. From a loudspeaker passionate lament
Death took my father. The same year (I was twelve) Thanási's mother taught me Heaven and hell.
A Mysterious Epigraph
These days which, like yourself, Seem empty and effaced Have avid roots that delve To work deep in the waste.
The Candid Decorator
I thought I would do over All of it. I was tired Of scars and stains, of bleared Panes, tinge of the liver.
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
(31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821)
An Urban Convalescence
Out for a walk, after a week in bed,
I find them tearing up part of my block
And, chilled through, dazed and lonely, join the dozen
In meek attitudes, watching a huge crane
Fumble luxuriously in the filth of years.
Her jaws dribble rubble. An old man
Laughs and curses in her brain,
Bringing to mind the close of The White Goddess.
As usual in New York, everything is torn down
Before you have had time to care for it.
Head bowed, at the shrine of noise, let me try to recall
What building stood here. Was there a building at all?
I have lived on ...