Archive | This Month

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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Techne in Textiles: Merrill’s “Investiture at Cecconi’s’”

In “Investiture at Cecconi’s,” James Merrill weaves a beautiful, sapphic fabric whose warp and weft intertwine chiaroscuro threads of fate, epiphany, beauty, and death as the expression of an initiation into the realm of living with and dying from AIDS. The poem opens, with notes of intimacy, outside the door of “their” Venetian tailor: “caro,” […]

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“A Window Fiery-Mild”: The Role of Venice in The Book of Ephraim

The Book of Ephraim is a very “literary” work and perhaps never more so than in its Venetian sections (V and W). It is my contention that Section V (the letter V, not the Roman numeral) constitutes not only a major turning-point in the work, but also a significant declaration of Merrill’s literary aims. As […]

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Satire & Dysfunction: James Merrill’s “Family Week at Oracle Ranch”

“Family week at Oracle Ranch” is a portrait of dysfunction. It’s a poem written later in Merrill’s life, appearing in his final book, A Scattering of Salts, published by Knopf in 1995, the same year that Merrill died (February 6, 1995). It originally appeared in The New Yorker, in the issue of February 22, 1993. […]

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James Merrill Special Issue: An Introduction

James Merrill is one of those poets whom everybody (well, everybody in the literary world) knows but whom few have read—or, at least, few have read at length or in depth. He shares his friend Elizabeth Bishop’s reputation as a “poet’s poet,” but in Bishop’s case the description is rather misleading; Bishop may appeal especially […]

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D. H. Tracy and the Role of the Poet-Critic

This is the 10th installment in the “Role of the Poet-Critic” series, which includes interviews with Dana Gioia, William Logan, Adam Kirsch, Stephen Burt, Christian Wiman, Timothy Steele, William Jay Smith, and Rachel Hadas. Interviewer’s Note: D. H. Tracy is the author of a book of poems, Janet’s Cottage (St. Augustine’s Press, 2012), which won […]

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Letters to CPR: Marcus Bales responds to Richard Blanco Ballyhoo

Editor’s Note: Marcus Bales responded to the CPR’s recent series of articles on Richard Blanco’s Inaugural reading with this poem.   Identity Poetical by Marcus Bales Identity Poet: I am the very model of identity poetical, My bio and my craftsmanship are blankly antithetical. The more that I’m selected for my principal ethnicity The easier […]

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Praising Athenians in Athens: On the Failures of the American Ceremonial Poem

Perhaps the most surprising feature of Richard Blanco’s inaugural poem, “One Today,” is that hardly anyone took notice. In the week after the inauguration, the blogosphere was eerily quiet in regard to the poem. The Washington Post failed to run the complete text until Saturday, and the few online weeklies that bothered to devote any […]

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