Inner Room

James Merrill, Author
James Merrill, Author Knopf Publishing Group $15 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-72049-2
Reviewed on: 10/22/1988
Release date: 10/01/1988
Merrill, Pulitzer Prize recipient and two-time American Book Award winner, offers here an enormously far-reaching reading experience. Although the title suggests a preoccupation with the poet's internal life, his poetry moves sweepingly outward: he locates his works in Florida, the Caribbean, Rome and Japan. The genres here are as varied as his geographical settings. In the section ``Prose of Departure,'' he writes primarily in a prose sparingly but pungently laced with verse. A one-act play, ``The Image Maker,'' is a sharply focused parable about a puppet-maker whose creations come alive, representing, perhaps, the poet, for whom image-making is particularly relevant. Many poems are similarly self-referential. In ``Morning Glory,'' for example, he writes, ``The world at last our own to reinvent, / This or that bit gets titled `Morning Glory.' '' But the masterly wordsmith more than compensates for occasional self-conscious or whimsical excursions. With his ability to push words to their fullest potential, Merrill blends the magical and the mundane with striking power: ``Violet, the sinister of blue . . . / Frost killed the vine . . . I also felt the stab / Our local color lab / Came up with images . . . . '' (Nov.)
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