Collected Prose

By James Merrill
Knopf Publishing Group, Hardcover, 9780375411366, 752pp.

Publication Date: October 26, 2004

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Description

Following James Merrill’s widely celebrated Collected Poems and Collected Novels and Plays, this volume gives us, most intimately, the man himself and his charmingly straightforward exploration of how he became himself. As much as any poet of our time, Merrill conceived of his work and his life as warp and woof, and the prose collected here (from his juvenilia and occasional pieces through his critical writings to his interviews and memoir) shows how bound up in his craft (itself a recurrent topic) were his readings and reflections, his travels and friendships. Even Merrill’s most devoted readers will be startled anew at the range of his aesthetic concerns and the depth of his knowledge. Dante and Ponge, Cavafy and Montale, Elizabeth Bishop and Wallace Stevens, all figure prominently here, and the volume is shot through with commentary on music, especially opera, and descriptions of the world’s great cities–including New York, Paris, Istanbul, and Kyoto–and their cultural treasures. The volume closes resoundingly with A Different Person, Merrill’s memoir of his young life, in which he travels to Europe to explore the culture, comes of age as a gay man, and faces down his legacy as the son of the renowned financier Charles E. Merrill.

As Merrill remarks to one interviewer here, a poet is “someone choosing the words he lives by.” This volume, a cross section of a singularly complex literary life, showcases the care for verbal nuance and the inimitably varied tones that distinguish this great American writer.




About the Author
James Merrill (1926-1995) was renowned for the elegance and humane complexity of his work, and is considered the leading lyric poet of his generation. His travels around the world--with their displacements and discoveries--are the subject of many of his poems, but at heart he was an autobiographical poet whose "chronicles of love and loss" tracked the heart as poignantly as a poet ever has. In his huge epic poem on occult themes, in his enthralling narrative poems, or in his small exquisite lyrics, he wrote in a distinctively urbane and engaging voice that made his career one of the wonders of contemporary poetry.
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