James Merrill's new collection, The Inner Room, combines symmetry with surprise.The first and last of its five parts include, in addition to diverse two masterly long poems each ('Morning Glory' and 'A Room at the Heart of Things' in Part I and 'Walks in Rome' and 'Losing the Marbles' in Part V). The central section, an arrangement of shorter poems and a bittersweet meditation written some years ago but not collected until now, is framed by the book's most startling accomplishments. In Part II Merrill returns to the verse drama, a genre that he has not worked in since the 1950s, when 'The Bait' was produced off-Broadway. 'The Image Maker' is an exquisitely fashioned one-act play about a santero, a saint-maker, whose carved figures are objects of veneration and sources of power in his Caribbean village. The santero also practices santeria, the Latin American religion that syncretizes the Yoruba lore which the slaves brought with them from West Africa and the Catholicism imposed on them in their new world. In this exotic context, Merrill rings changes on themes developed in his epic poem The Changing Light at Sandover. Part IV, a sequence entitled 'Prose of Departure, is itself another striking departure from Merrill's recent work. Set mostly in Japan, it intertwines narratives of beginnings and endings even as it intersperses its prose with hokku in a manner reminiscent of Basho's travel journals -- though the delicately managed rhymes set Merrill's cachet upon the form. Among the other work here are poems in Sapphics and in syllabics; a villanelle whose recursions celebrate memory', and a doubled anagram, in which the English poem is shadowed by a French version"
author of The Consuming Myth, The Work of James Merrill
About James Merrill
James Merrill was born on March 3, 1926, in New York City and died on February 6, 1995. From the mid-1950s on, he lived in Stonington, Connecticut, and for extended periods he also had houses in Athens and Key West. From The Black Swan (1946) through A Scattering of Salts (1995), he wrote twelve books of poems, ten of them published in trade editions, as well as The Changing Light at Sandover (1982). He also published two plays, The Immortal Husband (1956) and The Bait (1960); two novels, The Seraglio (1957, reissued 1987) and The (Diblos) Notebook (1965, reissued 1994); a book of essays, interviews, and reviews, Recitative (1986); and a memoir, A Different Person (1993). Over the years, he was the winner of numerous awards for his poetry, including two National Book Awards, the Bollingen Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress. He was a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
J. D. McClatchy and Stephen Yenser are James Merrill’s literary executors. J. D. McClatchy has published six volumes of poetry and two collections of essays. He teaches at Yale and is the editor of The Yale Review. Stephen Yenser has written three books of criticism (one about Merrill) and a volume of poems. He is a professor of English and the director of Creative Writing at UCLA.
James Merrill’s Collected Poems is available in Knopf paperback. The Voice of the Poet: James Merrill is available from Random House Audio.