By Mark A. Bauer
Readers of James Merrill's poetry have lengthy famous affinities and contrasts among Merrill and Yeats. This Composite Voice is the 1st intensive exam of the vast historical past and especially vexed nature of this lifelong poetic courting. It attracts on little-known biographical fabric, uncollected poems, manuscript variations, and annotations present in Merrill's copies of Yeats poems, essays, and A imaginative and prescient, in addition to an in depth exam of Merrill's better-known writing, to set up the numerous ways that Merrill contends with the older poet's haunting character and poetic accomplishment.
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Additional info for This Composite Voice: The Role of W.B. Yeats in James Merrill's Poetry (Studies in Major Literary Authors, Vol., 24)
In contrast, Merrill comes to identify his father with both the grandeur of the “heavens” and the demanding lack that is “the abyss//of night” (“Scenes of Childhood). McClatchy is surely right in concluding his essay on the figure of the Mother in Merrill’s poetry that she is “the image of the world itself: muse and model, scold and siren, security and danger and love” (“Inner Room” 22). He argues too that she is “vessel of all desires” and “priestess…of all the mysteries of formation, nourishment, preservation and transfor mation.
The only time Merrill would not follow my direction was when I wanted him to write a long narrative poem, for he kept insisting that long poems were an impossibility, an anomaly in our times. I told him it would not matter whether or not the poem turned out to be good or bad: he would be forced to use his creativity in structuring such a poem, and it would challenge and widen the range of his imagination…. But Merrill adamantly refused…. Only after he had written Sandover did he read the Odyssey through [Friar’s translation of Kazantzakis’s monumental Odyssey: A Modern Sequel], writing me two lovely letters of praise, apologizing for having taken “twenty years to mature” [an echo of JM’s compliant to WHA about the originality of Mirabell: “I want it mine, but cannot spare the twenty/Years in a cool dark place that Ephraim took/In order to be palatable wine” (S.
One day when the time was ripe, Kimon planned to write a long poem based on Yeats’s system: spiritualism, the phases of the moon, the gyres of history. A long poem was the test of any poet’s powers. He cited Dante, Milton, Rilke, Pound. What would their shorter works amount to without the great achievements that crowned them? The notion struck me at twenty—at forty, too, for that matter—as a dangerous form of megalomania, and I wasn’t buying any of it. But at fifty? Longer than Dante, dottier than Pound, and full of spirits more talkative than Yeats himself might have wished, the Sandover project held me captive.
This Composite Voice: The Role of W.B. Yeats in James Merrill's Poetry (Studies in Major Literary Authors, Vol., 24) by Mark A. Bauer