X

X & O, Yes & No, Yin & Yang.  Merrill’s poetry is not only full of dualities, but also full of the gulfs—represented by the mobius strip of the ampersand—between each of these oppositional pairs: love & loss, life & death, this world & the next; or mother & father, femininity & masculinity, space & … Continue reading X

W

‘I looked then and saw that his robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colours, and if he moved they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered.‘ “I liked white better,” I said.‘ “White!” he sneered. “It serves as a beginning. White cloth may be dyed. … Continue reading W

V

[Many thanks to Lauren Chavez for this guest post!] Very rarely do I allow myself to be swallowed by the overwhelming emotions that stir within my chest when I read poetry. I’ve never enjoyed strong displays of emotion from myself, especially in front of other people. Merrill, however, does not allow me to hide from … Continue reading V

U

 Unreal City.           Rosy used to say that New York is a fairground. “You will know when it’s time, when the fair is over.” —Hannah Sullivan’s “You, Very Young in New York” Back to the ever-curt and oft respectful transactions of New York City delis, markets, and bodegas—the equivalent of the steering wheel finger-lift on rural … Continue reading U

T

Turn the screw once more—see how far in it digs before the threads lose grip and the whole assemblage rips itself up by its own penetrative power. “Screw your courage to the sticking place”—that kind of thing. Three months ago, in August, I most recently tried to write this essay. I only got this: There … Continue reading T

S

So, the bizarreries of Mirabell and Scripts, their sometimes beautiful poetry, their sometimes agonizing poetry, their sometimes not-even-poetry; the fact that Merrill succumbed to New Age thinking even in the act of trying to bypass or circumvent it, and that poetry didn’t, in the end, provide any kind of guaranteed immunity from it: a certain … Continue reading S

R

Reading Merrill again these days is like coming back to your childhood house as an adult. To all appearances, things are not really changed—the walls and ceilings and windows remain as they were. Perhaps even (let’s imagine) there was no one else at home while you were away, so all the decor and so forth … Continue reading R

Q

Quarantine.  Self-imposed isolation.  Today’s terms apply to yesterday’s poets.  How to occupy oneself when stuck at home all day?  Pull out the Ouija board, have a small party with non-corporeal and therefore non-infectious guests.  While away the hours in conversation.  Cardboard, Sharpie, teacup.  Batteries not required, screens not involved.  Pen and paper will do.  Zoom … Continue reading Q

P

Pillows of snow have come down, the first real snowfall of the winter, a heavy, wet flatness over everything in sight. It sags beneath its own weight: an icicle I plunged like a flag into the railing’s drifts now leans at a crazy angle over empty space, pulled almost to a horizontal by the slow … Continue reading P

O

[Many thanks to Erika Birkeland for this guest post!] On September 20, 2019, 16-year-old activist Greta Thurnburg declared in an Instagram post: “Change is coming, whether you like it or not” (“Greta”). While poet James Merrill could not have foreseen the rise of Instagram or the global climate strikes that prompted this post, in 1991 … Continue reading O