Cover image for Collected poems
Collected poems
Merrill, James, 1926-1995. Poems.
Uniform Title:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Knopf, 2001.
Physical Description:
xx, 885 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes indexes.

"This is a Borzoi book"--T.p. verso.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3525.E6645 A17 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PS3525.E6645 A17 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



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.

Author Notes

James Ingram Merrill 1926-1995 James Ingram Merrill was born in New York on March 3, 1926. He attended Amherst College. Merrill would go on to receive every major poetry award in the United States, including the 1977 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Divine Comedies. Merrill was honored in mid-career with the Bollingen Prize in 1973. He would receive the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1983 for his epic poem The Changing Light at Sandover. He won the National Book Award for Poetry twice, in 1967 for Nights and Days and in 1979 for Mirabell: Books of Number.

Merrill died on February 6, 1995. Since his death, his work has been anthologized in three divisions: Collected Poems, Collected Prose, and Collected Novels and Plays.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Merrill's readers know that he was an exceptional poet in voice, vision, range, and fluency. The winner of many awards, including a Pulitzer Prize, the Bollingen Prize for Poetry, and two National Book Awards, Merrill (1926^-95) was gloriously prolific, as the editors of this bountiful collection, J. D. McClatchy and Stephen Yenser, attest. Here are all the poems, including translations, from 11 volumes (except for the epic The Changing Light at Sandover), as well as previously uncollected and unpublished works. There is much to absorb, mull over, and enjoy sensuously and intellectually. And it's profoundly moving to witness Merrill's evolution from the young author of The Black Swan (1946), drenched in yet wary of tradition, to the increasingly confident poet of the later books, who matched intensity with merriment and contrasted scenes from a life of privilege with a somber sense of history and loss. Like Stevens and Auden, Merrill was at once formal and conversational, lyric and narrative, and enlightened by the smallest of objects, a Willowware cup for instance, and the grandest: the sea, death, light. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

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



b o d y Look closely at the letters. Can you see, entering (stage right), then floating full, then heading off -- so soon -- how like a little kohl-rimmed moon o plots her course from b to d --as y, unanswered, knocks at the stage door? Looked at too long, words fail, phase out. Ask, now that body shines no longer, by what light you learn these lines and what the b and d stood for. From the Trade Paperback edition. Excerpted from Collected Poems by James Merrill All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.