Archive | This Month

Stalking the Typical Poem

When I tell people I teach and – God help me – even write poetry, they often say, “I wish you could explain modern poetry to me. I just don’t understand most of it.” My response is usually to talk to them about the kinds of modern poem you can understand, among which I include […]

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James Merrill’s “The Friend of the Fourth Decade”

David Kalstone, a longtime professor of English at Rutgers University and, prior to that, at Harvard, was one of James Merrill’s closest friends. An expert on Sir Philip Sidney, Kalstone extensively studied 20th-century Americans as well; his second book Five Temperaments (1977) included a chapter on Merrill along with Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Adrienne Rich […]

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The Unstiflement of the Story: James Merrill’s “The Broken Home”

“The Broken Home” is a sequence of seven sonnets that appeared in Merrill’s 1966 volume Nights and Days. The sonnets are connected by imagery, themes and autobiography, concerning, as they do, two central issues: the trauma of Merrill’s parents’ divorce and the poet’s own incomplete or “broken” childless home. The sonnets travel far, both temporally and […]

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James Merrill: “After Greece”

The young James Merrill first saw Greece in 1950 as part of a two-and-a-half-year long European tour, a trip he would later detail in his memoir A Different Person. He traveled to Greece specifically to visit his friend, teacher and first lover, Kimon Friar, a Greek-American poet and translator. In 1957, he and his companion […]

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“Permanence Through Words”: John Foy Reviews New Books by David Yezzi, Joanna Pearson, George Green, and Quincy R. Lehr

Birds of the Air, by David Yezzi, Carnegie Mellon University Press, Pittsburgh, PA, 2013 Lord Byron’s Foot, by George Green, St. Augustine’s Press, South Bend, IN, 2012 Shadows and Gifts, by Quincy R. Lehr, Barefoot Muse Press, 2013 Oldest Mortal Myth, by Joanna Pearson, Story Line Press, West Chester, PA, 2012 * * * Birds […]

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William Logan and the Role of the Poet-Critic

Interviewer’s Note: Born in 1950, William Logan is a professor of English at the University of Florida, where he teaches in the MFA program. He is the author of nine volumes of poetry and five books of criticism, including The Undiscovered Country, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. He has also […]

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Regaining the Depths: James Merrill’s “Pearl”

James Merrill’s final book of poems, A Scattering of Salts, was written in his last years as his health was in steady decline after having been diagnosed with HIV. The inevitability of his own death and the trauma that AIDS had wreaked and was continuing to wreak in his life, and in that of his […]

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James Merrill’s Geode Sonnet: Crystal Queer

Merrill scholarship has been undergoing a sea change, apparently mirroring a larger societal change. What among scholars even in the 1990s could but delicately speak its name, now does so frankly. High time, too. Merrill was a poet who wrote from the perspective of a gay man, out of a gay life lived richly. His […]

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The Ecstatic Discipline of David J. Rothman

James Matthew Wilson reviews two books by David J. Rothman, The Book of Catapults (White Violet Press, 2013) and Part of the Darkness (Entasis Press, 2013) In the last several years, David Rothman has established a reputation as the great enthusiast of poetic form. In his prose and public appearances, he argues with passion for the virtues […]

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“Losing the Marbles”: Merrill and Sophrosyne

James Merrill has given us the birth-myth of his poem, “Losing the Marbles.” After decades of spending his winter months in Athens, Greece, Merrill wintered instead in Key West, where, in 1985, “… we were talking about memory lapses, a topic increasingly relevant to everyone present. John Brinnin quoted Lady Diana Duff Cooper, who stayed […]

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