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
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 Broken Home
Crossing the street, I saw the parents and the child At their window, gleaming like fruit With evening’s mild gold leaf.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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,
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.
A Mysterious Epigraph
These days which, like yourself, Seem empty and effaced Have avid roots that delve To work deep in the waste.
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)
Was that of an engineer
Originally from Cologne.
Dead in his 22nd year
Of cholera in Cairo, he had KNOWN
NO HAPPINESS. He once met Goethe, though.
Goethe had told him: PERSEVERE.
Our blind hound whined. With that, a horde
Of voices gathered above the Ouija board,
Some childish and, you might say, blurred
By sleep; one little boy
Named Will, reluctant possibly in a ...