The publication of James Merrill's "Collected Poems" is a landmark in the history of modern American literature. His "First Poems"--its sophistication and virtuosity were recognized at once--appeared half a century ago. Over the next five decades, Merrill's range broadened and his voice took on its characteristic richness. In book after book, his ...
The publication of James Merrill's "Collected Poems" is a landmark in the history of modern American literature. His "First Poems"--its sophistication and virtuosity were recognized at once--appeared half a century ago. Over the next five decades, Merrill's range broadened and his voice took on its characteristic richness. In book after book, his urbanity and wit, his intriguing images and paradoxes, shone with a rare brilliance. As he once told an interviewer, he "looked for English in its billiard-table sense--words that have been set spinning against their own gravity." But beneath their surface glamour, his poems were driven by an audacious imagination that continually sought to deepen and refine our perspectives on experience. Among other roles, he was one of the supreme love poets of the twentieth century. In delicate lyric or complex narrative, this book abounds with what he once called his "chronicles of love and loss." Like Wallace Stevens and W. H. Auden before him, Merrill sought to quicken the pulse of a poem in surprising and compelling ways--ways, indeed, that changed how we came to see our own lives. Years ago, the critic Helen Vendler spoke for others when she wrote of Merrill, "The time eventually comes, in a good poet's career, when readers actively wait for his books: to know that someone out there is writing down your century, your generation, your language, your life . . . He has become one of our indispensable poets." This book brings together a remarkable body of work in an authoritative edition. From Merrill's privately printed book, "The Black Swan," published in 1946, to his posthumous collection, "A Scattering of Salts," which appeared in 1995, all of the poems he published are included, except for juvenalia and his epic, "The Changing Light at Sandover." In addition, twenty-one of his translations (from Apollinaire, Montale, and Cavafy, among others) and forty-four of his previously uncollected poems (including those written in the last year of his life) are gathered here for the first time. Collected Poems in the first volume in a series that will present all of James Merrill's work--his novels and plays, and his collected prose. Together, these volumes will testify to a monumental career that distinguished American literature in the late twentieth century and will continue to inspire readers and writers for years to come. "From the Hardcover edition."
Publishers Weekly, 2001-01-22 Lauded at his death as a major American writer, a great poet of sociability and comedy, an important part of the gay literary tradition and a master of traditional forms, Merrill (1926-1995) is well-served by this monumental gathering off his shorter poems, carefully edited and likely to garner major attention and sales. McClatchy (Twenty Questions, etc.) is Merrill's literary executor, and Yenser the author of a Merrill monograph. They include Merrill's 11 trade volumes; poems from two small-press books, The Black Swan (1946) and The Yellow Pages (1974); 21 verse translations; and 45 poems retrieved from periodicals and manuscripts. Excluded are some juvenilia and light verse, as well as Merrill's book-length poem The Changing Light at Sandover, in print as a separate volume. Merrill's sonnets, sapphics, longer sequences and sinuous sentences encompass lyric pathos, ebullient comedy, rapt romance and acrid satire. Their formal sophistication can belie their depth of feeling, which is exactly what some readers love best about Merrill's work. New readers ought to skip the often-dry earliest books, begin with Merrill's 1960s works and read forward. Confirmed fans will no doubt flip to the end of the book, where they will encounter many poems for the first timeDmost are short and witty, many of them are fine. The poems from Merrill's last year can be arresting, including a self-elegy in which the dying poet thinks of himself as a Christmas tree. (Mar.) Forecast: Huge, career-summing reviews of this book are already in production at various typewriters and computers along the eastern seaboard. The story of Merrill's personal fortune has always made good copy, and revelations of the poet's death by AIDS in Alison Lurie's Familiar Spirits: A Memoir of James Merrill and David Jackson (Viking), also due in March, should bring less-than-regular readers of poetry to the book via respectful items in glossies. Libraries of all stripes will also certainly acquire the book, which could show up on some bestseller lists. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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