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  #31  
Old 11-10-2017, 08:36 AM
Michael Juster Michael Juster is offline
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If you're curious, I've just posted a photo of Merrill's Ouija board on Twitter: @amjuster
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  #32  
Old 11-10-2017, 09:54 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Thanks, Mike. I had never seen a board with punctuation. I prefer tarot (and the oracle of Delphi).
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  #33  
Old 11-10-2017, 10:28 AM
Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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Thinking "four dimensionally" (not), the Tarot (and reading oriental coffee dregs) have a potential for negativity. Self-fulfilling disaster. Read horoscopes from random old publications and the wrong months, if you must. Practice safe-haruspex.
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  #34  
Old 11-10-2017, 10:45 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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I sometimes regret that fortune cookies so rarely foretell the future. Meals out would be so much more interesting.
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  #35  
Old 11-10-2017, 03:05 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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Nick F's example explains my difficulty. The idea is beautiful, but it's tortured, imo. There's something too aware that this is poetry. But that's taste, I suppose.
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  #36  
Old 11-10-2017, 04:33 PM
Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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John, I'd never go out to eat at the Vermillion Pavilion.

哂, doing business as

Allen
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  #37  
Old 11-12-2017, 05:25 PM
Ned Balbo Ned Balbo is offline
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Default Some of Ned's favorite Merrills

Here are a few of my favorite James Merrill poems, beyond those posted or mentioned earlier in the thread.

(Most were on quirky sites or not easily linked directly, so I copied them into this post & tried to clean them up.)

The Victor Dog:
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poe...the-victor-dog

The Octopus

There are many monsters that a glassen surface
Restrains. And none more sinister
Than vision asleep in the eye’s tight translucence.
Rarely it seeks now to unloose
Its diamonds. Having divined how drab a prison
The purest mortal tissue is,
Rarely it wakes. Unless, coaxed out by lusters
Extraordinary, like the octopus
From the gloom of its tank half-swimming half-drifting
Toward anything fair, a handkerchief
Or child’s face dreaming near the glass, the writher
Advances in a godlike wreath
Of its own wrath. Chilled by such fragile reeling
A hundred blows of a boot-heel
Shall not quell, the dreamer wakes and hungers.
Percussive pulses, drum or gong,
Build in his skull their loud entrancement,
Volutions of a Hindu dance.
His hands move clumsily in the first conventional
Gestures of assent.
He is willing to undergo the volition and fervor
Of many fleshlike arms, observe
These in their holiness of indirection
Destroy, adore, evolve, reject—
Till on glass rigid with his own seizure
At length the sucking jewels freeze.


The World and the Child

Letting his wisdom be the whole of love,
The father tiptoes out, backwards. A gleam
Falls on the child awake and wearied of,

Then, as the door clicks shut, is snuffed. The glove-
Gray afterglow appalls him. It would seem
That letting wisdom be the whole of love

Were pastime even for the bitter grove
Outside, whose owl's white hoot of disesteem
Falls on the child awake and wearied of.

He lies awake in pain, he does not move,
He will not scream. Any who heard him scream
Would let their wisdom be the whole of love.

People have filled the room he lies above.
Their talk, mild variation, chilling theme,
Falls on the child. Awake and wearied of

Mere pain, mere wisdom also, he would have
All the world waking from its winter dream,
Letting its wisdom be. The whole of love
Falls on the child awake and wearied of.


My Father's Irish Setters

Always throughout his life
(The parts of it I knew)
Two or three would be racing
Up stairs and down hallways,
Whining to take us walking,
Or caked with dirt, resigning
Keen ears to bouts of talk--
Until his third, last wife
Put down her little foot.
That splendid, thoroughbred
Lineage was penned
Safely out of earshot:
Fed, of course, and watered,
But never let out to run.
"Dear God," the new wife simpered,
Tossing her little head,
"Suppose they got run over--
Wouldn't that be the end?"

Each time I visited
(Once or twice a year)
I'd slip out, giving my word
Not to get carried away.
At the dogs' first sight of me
Far off--of anyone--
Began a joyous barking,
A russet-and-rapid-as-flame
Leaping, then whimpering lickings
Of face and hands through wire.
Like fire, like fountains leaping
With love and loyalty,
Put, were they, in safekeeping
By love, or for love's sake?
Dear heart, to love's own shame.
But loyalty transferred
Leaves famously slim pickings,
And no one's left to blame.

Divorced again, my father
(Hair white, face deeply scored)
Looked round and heaved a sigh.
The setters were nowhere.
Fleet muzzle, soulful eye
Dead lo! these forty winters?
Not so. Tonight in perfect
Lamplit stillness begin
With updraft from the worksheet,
Leaping and tongues, far-shining
Hearths of our hinterland:
Dour chieftain, maiden pining
Away for that lost music,
Her harpist's wild red hair...
Dear clan of Ginger and Finn,
As I go through your motions
(As they go through me, rather)
Love follows, pen in hand.

Manos Karastefanis

Death took my father.
The same year (I was twelve)
Thanási's mother taught me
Heaven and hell.

None of my army buddies
Called me by name—
Just 'Styles' or 'Fashion Plate'.
One friend I had, my body,

And, evenings at the gym
Contending with another,
Used it to isolate
Myself from him.

The doctor saved my knee.
You came to the clinic
Bringing War and Peace,
Better than any movie.

Why are you smiling?
I fought fair, I fought well,
Not hurting my opponent,
To win this black belt.

Why are you silent?
I've brought you a white cheese
From my island, and the sea's
Voice in a shell.

Annie Hill's Grave

Amen. The casket like a spaceship bears her
In streamlined, airtight comfort underground.
Necropolis is a nice place to visit ;
One would not want to live there all year round.

So think the children of its dead, emerging
From shadow by the small deep gates of clay,
Exclaiming softly, joyful if bewildered,
To see each other rouged, heads bald or gray.

Some have not met, though constant to the City,
For decades. Now their slowly sunnier
Counterclockwise movement, linked and loving,
Slackens the whirlpool that has swallowed her.

Alone, she grips, against confusion, pictures
Of us the living, and of the tall youth
She wed but has not seen for thirty summers.
Used to the dark, he lies in the next booth,

Part of that whole, poor, overpopulated
Land of our dreams, that 'instant' space
— To have again, just add stars, wind, and water —
Shrinkingly broached. And, as the brief snail-trace

Of her withdrawal dries upon our faces
The silence drums into her upturned face.


Last Words

My life, your light green eyes
Have lit on me with joy.
There's nothing I don't know
Or shall not know again,
Over and over again.
It's noon, it's dawn, it's night,
I am the dog that dies
In the deep street of Troy
Tomorrow, long ago--
Part of me dims with pain,
Becomes the stinging flies,
The bent head of the boy.
Part looks into your light
And lives to tell you so.
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  #38  
Old 11-15-2017, 11:15 AM
Gregory Dowling Gregory Dowling is offline
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Just coming back to this thread to mention a very good essay on Merrill by Katy Evans-Bush. It is in her book Forgive the Language, which is a collection of essays well worth buying. Here's a snippet:

Quote:
The artist he reminds me of the most is Mozart, the way he weaves his themes together with comic or grotesque touches, and little homilies, and then all of a sudden you are plunged into a moment of the most sublime, almost unbearable purity, it's like eternity. (Speaking of which, he remarked of Blake's famous line that 'you don't see eternity except in the grain of sand'.)
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  #39  
Old 11-15-2017, 04:45 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Gregory, my friend, my brother, I had warmed to Merrill somewhat and then you had to go and remind me of the old Merrill-Mozart comparison. You clearly enjoy Merrill's poetry a great deal, as does Ms. Evans-Bush. I'm afraid I'm lost again--I find the comparison of a somewhat bloodless, quite minor poet to a musical mega-genius grotesque. Mozart's music can sexually arouse me and drag me into the abyss of despair--Merrill's poetry rarely elicits more than a shrug from me. Yes, they both "embellish" their themes, but Mozart's embellishments are the play of genius. I find Merrill's embellishments superficial and, frankly, annoying. I just don't get why anyone would be all that excited about his work.
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  #40  
Old 11-15-2017, 05:05 PM
Gregory Dowling Gregory Dowling is offline
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Aaron, perhaps I should have given you the whole essay. I think she makes a very good case for Merrill as a writer of surprising depths and range of both thought and feeling. Her analysis of "Charles on Fire" is wonderful, bringing out all the eery transformational magic of that poem.

Perhaps "transformation" is one of the keys to Merrill's work, the way he feels life as a perpetual search for transformation. The Mozart comparison is pushing it but not, I think, totally unwarranted. Perhaps one major quality is missing and that is the "popular" touch, which Mozart also possessed (like Verdi, like Shakespeare...). Merrill is always going to be a rather specialist taste - but the same is true, for example, of Henry James or Proust, to mention two writers he admired. But definitely not minor. And definitely not bloodless.
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