Merrill, James

Merrill, James

(James Ingram Merrill), 1926–95, American poet, b. New York City. Born into wealth as the son of Charles MerrillMerrill, Charles Edward,
1885–1956, American stockbroker and investment banker, founder of Merrill Lynch & Co., b. Green Cove Springs, Fla. Forced by financial hardship to leave college, he arrived in New York City in 1907 and began working for a brokerage house in
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, he studied at Amherst College (grad. 1947) and was free to live as he pleased and to devote much of his time to poetry. One of the most admired poets of his generation, he is noted for the technical virtuosity, elegant formality, metric sophistication, refined lyricism, and witty urbanity of verse that, while always reserved, became more autobiographical, intimate, and colloquial over the years. His early volumes include First Poems (1951), Water Street (1962), Nights and Days (1966), The Fire Screen (1969), and Braving the Elements (1972). His most ambitious work was published in three parts (1976–80) and released in its entirety as The Changing Light at Sandover (1982). In it, Merrill (with his companion David Jackson) used a Ouija board to invoke the spirits (and the spirit) of his aesthetic forebears. Among his later volumes are Late Settings (1985), The Inner Room (1988), and A Scattering of Salts (1995). His lyrics are gathered in James Merrill: Collected Poems (2001). Merrill won every major literary award for poetry, including the Pulitzer and Bollingen prizes, two National Book Awards, and a National Book Critics Circle Award. He also wrote plays, e.g., The Immortal Husband (1955); novels, e.g., The Seraglio (1957); and essays, e.g., Recitative (1986).


See his Collected Novels and Plays (2002), Collected Prose (2004), and Selected Poems (2008), ed. by J. D. McClatchy and S. Yenser; his memoir, A Different Person (1993); A. Lurie, Familiar Spirits: A Memoir of James Merrill and David Jackson (2001); biography by L. Hammer (2015); R. Labrie, James Merrill (1982), J. Moffett, James Merrill: An Introduction (1984), S. Yenser, The Consuming Myth (1986), and M. Blasing, Politics and Form in Postmodern Poetry (1995).

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Merrill, James (Ingram)

(1926–  ) poet, writer; born in New York City. Son of the wealthy stockbroker Charles Merrill, he studied at Amherst (B.A. 1947). He lived abroad—in Greece and elsewhere—for many years, but maintained a home in Stonington, Conn. He wrote plays and novels, but is best known for his elegant, elliptical poetry as in The Changing Light at Sandover (1982), which also revealed his involvement with the occult.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
Merrill, James. "Byzantium Revisited", unpublished typescript, James Merrill papers, Olin Library, Washington University.
Worcester: David Abdow, Ryan Anger, Michael Badjo, Thomas Carroll, Joseph Crawford, Nicholas Gentile, Daniel Hicks, Kevin Holm, Tad Irving, Nicholas Johnson, Zachariah Kent, Michael LaFlash, Charles Lewis, Patrick Merrill, James O'Connell, Alexander Pappas, Joseph Pieniazek, Daniel Quick, Connor Sullivan, Peter Welch
Other guests include Mustafa Abadan, AIA, design partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, James Biber, partner at Pentagram, Mario Natarelli, of Futurebrand, and architect Lindy Roy.
Merrill, James M., Battle Flags South: The Story of the Civil War Navies on Western Waters.
Merrill, James. The Changing Light at Sandover with the Stage Adaptation Voices from Sandover, ed.
Merrill, James M., A Sailor's Admiral: A Biography of William F.
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