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
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)
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.
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.
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.
A Mysterious Epigraph
These days which, like yourself, Seem empty and effaced Have avid roots that delve To work deep in the waste.
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.
(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)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
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.
In a room on the floor below,
Sunless, cooler—a brimming
Saucer of wax, marbly and dim—
I have lit what’s left of my life.
I have thrown out yesterday’s milk
And opened a book of maxims.
The flame quickens. The word stirs.
Tell me, tongue of fire,
That you and I are as real
At least as the people upstairs.
My father, who had flown in World War I,
Might have continued to invest his life
In cloud banks well ...