Recitative

J. Merrill, Author, James Ingram Merrill, Author
J. Merrill, Author, James Ingram Merrill, Author North Point Press $25 (202p) ISBN 978-0-86547-254-9
Reviewed on: 10/28/1986
Release date: 11/01/1986
From this collection of interviews, essays, travel notes, stories, appreciations and addresses we learn something of Merrill's early years and the influences on himDante, of course, and Stevens, Yeats, Cavafy and Bishop, to name a few. But more important is the oblique light Merrill's prose style casts on the closed, intimate structure of his lyrics. He is like a musician who has switched instruments, from clavier, say, to piano. If the temperament and many of the mannerisms are the same, the technique allows us to feel more at home with the writer since chat is the province of prose, not poetry. While many prose collections by poets seem flat-footed and somehow beside the point, this book is particularly effective, despite a ragbag exterior, as a key to the author's poetry. It is not quite correct to say merely that Merrill writes prose like a poet. Rather he bends the medium in mysterious ways to serve more than one purpose. (November)
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