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 extensive exam of the broad historical past and especially vexed nature of this lifelong poetic dating. 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 various ways that Merrill contends with the older poet's haunting character and poetic accomplishment.
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Extra resources for This Composite Voice: The Role of W.B. Yeats in James Merrill's Poetry (Studies in Major Literary Authors, Vol., 24)
Yet Merrill also signals his early distrust as well as his attraction to such Yeatsian discourse: “Words like ‘antithesis’ or ‘metaphysical,’ or sentences beginning ‘The poet in his lonely search for belief…’ made his eyes shift nervously, but he enjoyed the relish with which Orestes could utter them” (100). An entry in one of Merrill’s notebooks makes a similar point about Friar’s talk: “His subject is Man, his tragic fate and heroic defiance in the face of extinction”—Bruce Chatwin on Malraux.
In the poem, an imagined Perseus arises, rebellious yet fated, and strides out into the Yeatsian perfection of “the coldest, roundest moon”; whereas, in the novel, “every action however brutal is nobly, inflexibly ordered” (145). 40 It is a remarkable collection, not only for the poems that Merrill later published in First Poems (“The Black Swan,” “The Broken Bowl,” “The Green Eye,” “Accumulations of the Sea,” and “Medusa”) but for those not subsequently collected until the posthumous Collected Poems: (“From Morning to Morning,” “Perspectives of the Lonesome Eye,” “Phenomenal Love Song,” “The Formal Lovers,” “Suspense of Love,” and two of Merrill’s “Embarkation Sonnets”).
The person I am today. 20 As in Yeats, such coital “Unity of Being” is fleeting and issues only in loss and disappointment, which in turn becomes the material and stance of the poet (Bloom Yeats 230–34). As the poet who will largely make his poetic career out of his “chronicles of love and loss” (S. 176), Merrill seems to follow Yeats in affirming: “The poet finds and makes his mask in disappointment” (Per Amica 337). Yet part of Merrill also wants to affirm a recuperative aesthetic credo: “Art.
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