James Merrill

James Merrill

James Ingram Merrill (March 3, 1926 – February 6, 1995) was an American poet whose awards include the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1977) for Divine Comedies. His poetry falls into two distinct bodies of work: the polished and formalist (if deeply emotional) lyric poetry of his early career, and the epic narrative of occult communication with spirits and angels, titled The Changing Light at Sandover, which dominated his later career. Although most of his published work was poetry, he also wrote essays, fiction, and plays.

Read more about James Merrill:  Life, Awards, Style, Works By Merrill, Works About Merrill

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    Mankind’s common instinct for reality ... has always held the world to be essentially a theatre for heroism. In heroism, we feel, life’s supreme mystery is hidden. We tolerate no one who has no capacity whatever for it in any direction. On the other hand, no matter what a man’s frailties otherwise may be, if he be willing to risk death, and still more if he suffer it heroically, in the service he has chosen, the fact consecrates him forever.
    —William James (1842–1910)

    the sheets and towels of a life we were going to share,
    The milk-stiff bibs, the shroud, each rag to be ever
    Trampled or soiled, bled on or groped for blindly,
    Came swooning out of an enormous willow hamper
    Onto moon-marbly boards.
    —James Merrill (b. 1926)