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Selected Poems Paperback – October 28, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A virtuoso of rhyming form, a master of puns and a subtle verse autobiographer, Merrill (1926-1995) got attacked during his lifetime as too fancy or artful. He is now generally considered one of his generation's greats. Readers prize his gemlike early lyrics; his autobiographical poems of friendship, illness, privilege (his father cofounded Merrill Lynch), travel (Greece, New England, Florida) and same-sex love; his science-fictional epic The Changing Light at Sandover (written with help from a Ouija board); and the rueful, reflective, sometimes very funny poems of his last years, from "Rhapsody on Czech Themes" to "b o d y" ("Looked at too long, words fail,/ phase out"). Some readers thought his final poems his best, though they were necessarily omitted from his previous Selected, compiled before they were written. Also here are slices of Sandover, and the classics from the 1960s and 1970s. These include "An Urban Convalescence," in which Merrill muses on his New York City block and on the renovation--or is it destruction--of modern language; fine sonnets such as "Marsyas"; and trick-ending stories in verse, such as "Chimes for Yahya." This rigorous cull seems designed for new readers (or students). Those who don't want to spring for the heavy Collected Poems will also want to see what this book holds. (Oct.)
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About the Author

James Merrill (1926–1995) wrote twelve books of poems, as well as the epic The Changing Light at Sandover. He published two plays, two novels, and a memoir, A Different Person. The recipient of numerous awards for his poetry, including two National Book Awards, the Bollingen Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress, Merrill was also a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (October 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037571166X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375711664
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.8 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #716,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Michael Albert on March 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
I'm reading the complete/selected/collected of many late 20th century poets these days and was extremely gratified with the work of James Merrill. I think the most outstanding quality of his work, when compared to that of most of the others, is the fact that he maintains a sense of humor and delight from the first poems published in 1951 to the last, written in 1995. I don't think Merrill is out to impress anyone; to please them, perhaps, but not to dazzle with erudition or intellect. Meanwhile, he's a very clever manipulator of rhyme and meter, and I particularly enjoyed the poems that alternated ballad stanzas with terza rima to keep the narrative from grinding down into the predictable rhythm of either. He's smart, well read, and well traveled and has obvious fun juggling all three in these performances. Nothing seems to have escaped his voracious curiosity, or the generosity with which he shares it with his readers.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Charles Morgan on January 6, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not entirely sure but I have an awful lot of James Merrill poetry books(he's kind of a favorite)
and some of these early poems I think may have been previously unreleased.
Someone I know who is an expert thinks they may be just collected differently, but it's nice to discover
that his youthful poems were as amazing, in a different way, as his more mature ones!
Some of the ones I read chronicle the life of a young gay man. I love his smile on the cover, too!
Disclaimer: Have not finished the entire book yet.
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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Garp10 on September 4, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was totally unfamiliar with Merrill's work, so I went into this one blind. I also do not read a lot of poetry, so I may be a bit ignorant about what is or is not good poetry. Some of the poems resonated with me more than others. I did like the pairing of words, and enjoyed trying to figure out the rhyme scheme. Nothing really sparked with me reading this one... Its OK.
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