Spring 1998 • Vol. XX No. 2 Kenyon Review ClassicsApril 1, 1998 |

James Merrill’s Early Work: A Revaluation

A number of poems by James Merrill (1926-1995) appeared in The Kenyon Review in 1947 and 1949: "Dancing, Joyously Dancing," "The Drowning Poet," "Cloud Country," "Entrance from Sleep," and "Transfigured Bird." A decade later, in 1958, one more poem, "Dream and Waking," was published. Although the earlier batches appeared when Merrill was only twenty-one and may well have been written several years earlier, all these poems are recognizably the work of a writer who very early on commanded enormous eloquence, subtlety, and skill. The voice we hear in them, while different from the unique and fluent instrument Merrill was to develop later, is already complex: at once confiding and withheld, plaintive and amused. This is not to imply, however, that in the succeeding four and a half decades of his career Merrill didn't change or improve. Of course he did. In an apparently untitled poem written in 1972, Merrill casts a fond but far from uncritical eye on his youthful volume First Poems

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Folded Back

By Rachel Hadas

A number of poems by James Merrill (1926-1995) appeared in The Kenyon Review in 1947 and 1949: "Dancing, Joyously Dancing," "The Drowning Poet," "Cloud Country," "Entrance from Sleep," and "Transfigured […]

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