Partner David Jackson, Peter Hooten, buried together with David Jackson

Queer Places:
18 W 11th St, New York, NY 10011, Stati Uniti
James L. Breese House, 155 Hill St, Southampton, NY 11968, Stati Uniti
Lawrenceville School, 2500 Main Street, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648, Stati Uniti
Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts 01002, Stati Uniti
107 Water St, Stonington, CT 06378, Stati Uniti
Athinaion Efivon (now M. Merkouri) 44, Athina 115 21, Grecia
702 Elizabeth St, Key West, FL 33040, USA
164 E 72nd St, New York, NY 10021, Stati Uniti
Evergreen Cemetery, 345 N Main St, Stonington, CT 06378, Stati Uniti

James Ingram Merrill[1] (March 3, 1926 – February 6, 1995) was an American poet. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1977) for ''Divine Comedies'' (1976). His poetry falls into two distinct bodies of work: the polished and formalist lyric poetry of his early career, and the epic narrative of occult communication with spirits and angels, titled ''The Changing Light at Sandover'' (published in three volumes from 1976 to 1980), which dominated his later career. Although most of his published work was poetry, he also wrote essays, fiction, and plays. He also made a cameo in the 1992 film ''Lorenzo's Oil'' in a symposium scene where he played a questioning doctor, due to filmmakers wanting to emphasize the "everyman" storyline.

James Ingram Merrill was born in New York City, to Charles E. Merrill (1885-1956), the founding partner of the Merrill Lynch investment firm, and Hellen Ingram Merrill (1898-2000), a society reporter and publisher from Jacksonville, Florida.[2] He was born at a residence which would become the site of the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion, which Merrill would lament in the poem "18 West 11th Street" (1972).[3] [4]

Merrill's parents married in 1925, the year before he was born; he would grow up with two older half siblings from his father's first marriage, Doris Merrill Magowan[5] and Charles E. Merrill, Jr. As a boy, Merrill enjoyed a highly privileged upbringing in educational and economic terms. His father's 30-acre estate in Southampton, New York, for example, known as "The Orchard," had been designed by Stanford White with landscaping by Frederick Law Olmsted. (The property was developed in 1980 with 29 luxury condominiums flanking the central gardens, while the home's vast ballroom and first-floor public reception areas were preserved.)[6] [7] [8] Merrill's childhood governess taught him French and German, an experience Merrill wrote about in his 1974 poem "Lost in Translation." From 1936-1938, Merrill attended St. Bernard's, a prestigious New York grammar school.

"I found it difficult to ''believe'' in the way my parents lived. They seemed so utterly taken up with engagements, obligations, ceremonies," Merrill would tell an interviewer in 1982.[9] "The excitement, the emotional quickening I felt in those years came usually through animals or nature, or through the servants in the house . . . whose lives seemed by contrast to make such perfect ''sense''. The gardeners had their hands in the earth. The cook was dredging things with flour, making pies. My father was merely making money, while my mother wrote names on place-cards, planned menus, and did her needlepoint." Merrill's parents separated when he was eleven, then divorced when he was thirteen. As a teenager, Merrill boarded at the Lawrenceville School, where he befriended future novelist Frederick Buechner, began writing poetry, and undertook early literary collaborations.[10] When Merrill was 16 years old, his father collected his short stories and poems and published them as a surprise under the name ''Jim's Book.'' Initially pleased, Merrill would later regard the precocious book as an embarrassment. Today, it is considered a literary treasure worth thousands of dollars.[11]

Merrill was drafted in 1944 into the United States Army and served for eight months. His studies interrupted by war and military service, Merrill returned to Amherst College in 1945 and graduated ''summa cum laude'' in 1947. Merrill's senior thesis on French Impressionist Marcel Proust heralded his literary talent, and his English professor upon reading it declared to the Amherst graduating class that Jim (as he was known there) was "destined for some sort of greatness."[12] ''The Black Swan'', a collection of poems Merrill's Amherst professor (and lover) Kimon Friar published privately in Athens, Greece in 1946, was printed in just one hundred copies when Merrill was 20 years old. Merrill's first mature work, ''The Black Swan'' is among Merrill's scarcest titles. Merrill's first commercially published volume was ''First Poems'', issued in 990 numbered copies by Alfred A. Knopf in 1951.

Merrill's partner of three decades was David Jackson, a writer and artist. Merrill and Jackson met in New York City after a performance of Merrill's play ''The Bait'' at the Comedy Club in 1953. (Poet Dylan Thomas and playwright Arthur Miller walked out of the performance.[13] ) Together, Jackson and Merrill moved to Stonington, Connecticut in 1955, purchasing a property at 107 Water Street (now the site of writer-in-residency program, the James Merrill House, sponsored by the Stonington Village Improvement Association in Stonington Borough).[14] [15] For most of two decades, the couple spent winters in Athens at their home at 44 Athinaion Efivon.[16] Greek themes, locales, and characters occupy a prominent position in Merrill's writing. In 1979, Merrill and Jackson largely abandoned Greece and began spending part of each year at Jackson's home in Key West, Florida.

18 W 11th St

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James Merrill and David Jackson's house in Stonington

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James Merrill and David Jackson's Key West Cottage

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James Merrill and Peter Hooten's New York City Apartment

In his 1993 memoir ''A Different Person'', Merrill revealed that he suffered writer's block early in his career and sought psychiatric help to overcome its effects (undergoing analysis with Dr. Thomas Detre in Rome). "Freedom to be oneself is all very well," he would write. "The greater freedom is not to be oneself."[17] Merrill painted a candid portrait in his memoir of gay life in the early 1950s, describing friendships and relationships with several men including Dutch poet Hans Lodeizen, Italian journalist Umberto Morra, U.S. writer Claude Fredericks, art dealer Robert Isaacson, David Jackson, and his partner from 1983 onward, actor Peter Hooten.

A prodigious correspondent and the keeper of many confidences, Merrill's "chief pleasure was friendship".[18] Answering to "Jim" in his youth and to "James" in published adulthood (and to "JM" in letters from readers), he was called "Jimmy", a childhood nickname, by friends and family until the end of his life. Despite great personal wealth derived from an unbreakable trust made early in his childhood, Merrill lived modestly.[19] (Before his father's death, Merrill and his two siblings renounced any further inheritance from their father's estate in exchange for $100 "as full quittance";[20] as a result, most of Charles Merrill's estate was donated to charity, including "The Orchard.")

A philanthropist in his own right, Merrill created the Ingram Merrill Foundation in the 1950s, the name of which united his divorced parents. The private foundation operated throughout the poet's lifetime and subsidized literature, the arts, and public television, with grants directed particularly to writers and artists showing early promise. Merrill met filmmaker Maya Deren in 1945 and the poet Elizabeth Bishop a few years later, giving critical financial assistance to both and providing funds to hundreds of other writers, often anonymously.[21] [22]

Merrill served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1979 until his death. While wintering in Arizona, he died on February 6, 1995 from a heart attack related to AIDS. His ashes and the remains of David Jackson are buried side by side at Evergreen Cemetery, Stonington. Jackson's former wife and Merrill's friend, Doris Sewell Jackson is buried behind them.

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Evergreen Cemetery

In tribute to Merrill, ''The New Yorker'' republished his 1962 poem, “The Mad Scene”, in its March 19, 1995 edition.[23]

Beginning with the prestigious Glascock Prize, awarded for ''The Black Swan'' when he was an undergraduate, Merrill would go on to receive every major poetry award in the United States, including the 1977 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for ''Divine Comedies''. Merrill was honored in mid-career with the Bollingen Prize in 1973. He would receive the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1983 for his epic poem ''The Changing Light at Sandover'' (composed partly of supposedly supernatural messages received via the use of a Ouija board). In 1990, he received the first Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry awarded by the Library of Congress for ''The Inner Room''. He garnered the National Book Award for Poetry twice, in 1967 for ''Nights and Days''[24] and in 1979 for ''Mirabell/ Books of Number''.[25]

He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1978.[26]

My published books:

See my published books


  1. ^ James Merrill, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  2. ^ cite book|title=James Merrill: Selected Poems|editors= J. D. McClatchy & Stephen Yenser|location=New York|publisher= Alfred A. Knopf, 2008|chapter= Short Chronology|pages= 289–294
  3. ^ cite book|last=Chattarji|first=Subarno |title=Memories of a Lost War: American Poetic Responses to the Vietnam War|publisher=Oxford University Press|location=Oxford|year=2001|pages=50|isbn=0-19-924711-0
  4. ^ cite news|author=Gussow, Mel |date=March 5, 2000|title=The House On West 11th Street|work=The New York Times|accessdate=April 4, 2008|url=https://www.nytimes.com/2000/03/05/nyregion/the-house-on-west-11th-street.html
  5. ^ [http://slick.org/deathwatch/mailarchive/msg00246.html Philanthropist Doris Magowan dies at 87], ''San Francisco Examiner'', 6 April 2001. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  6. ^ cite book|author=White, Samuel G. |title=The Houses of McKim, Mead & White|location= London|publisher= Thames & Hudson|year= 1998|pages= 238–249
  7. ^ Bing.com. [http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&cp=qtdsdq8z03yz&scene=52680996&lvl=2&sty=b&where1=Hill%20St%2C%20Southampton%2C%20NY%2011968 3D aerial view of "The Orchard"], Hill St., Southampton, New York.
  8. ^ J. D. McClatchy. [http://www.randomhouse.com/knopf/authors/merrill/braving.html Braving the Elements], ''The New Yorker'', 27 March 1995.
  9. ^ J. D. McClatchy, interviewer. [http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/3154/the-art-of-poetry-no-31-james-merrill The Art of Poetry No. 31: An Interview with James Merrill]. ''Paris Review'', Summer 1982.
  10. ^ Gussow, Mel. [https://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CE2DB143AF934A35751C0A963958260 "James Merrill Is Dead at 68; Elegant Poet of Love and Loss"], ''The New York Times'', February 7, 1995. Accessed October 31, 2007. "He went to Lawrenceville School, where one of his close friends and classmates was the novelist Frederick Buechner."
  11. ^ cite web|last=Jaffe|first=James|title=James Jaffe Rarebooks: Winter 2007 Catalog|url=http://www.jamesjaffe.com/pdf/WINTER%202007%20CATALOGUE.pdf|accessdate=18 March 2013
  12. ^ Hammer, Langdon. ''James Merrill: Life and Art,'' Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.
  13. ^ Merrill, James. ''A Different Person: A Memoir'', New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1993, Chapter XX. "Arthur Miller and Dylan Thomas, whom Kimon [Friar] had brought to see the play, stumbled out, making remarks I'd have preferred not to hear and dragging after them the audience's attention, along with poor Kimon himself. ('What could I do?' he said next day on the phone. 'Dylan wanted a drink.' Years later I learned what Mr. Miller, with uncanny insight, had whispered in Dylan's ear shortly after the curtain rose: 'You know, this guy's got a secret, and he's gonna keep it.')" Reprinted in ''Collected Prose'', Knopf, 2004, p. 670.
  14. ^ cite web|last=Stonington Village Improvement Association in Stonington Borough|title=James Merrill House|url=http://www.jamesmerrillhouse.org/|accessdate=18 March 2013
  15. ^ Swansburg, John. [https://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/28/nyregion/the-view-from-stonington-if-the-walls-could-talk-it-would-be-poetry.html The View From/Stonington; If the Walls Could Talk, It Would Be Poetry], The New York Times, 28 January 2001. "[I]n the 1950's he established the Ingram Merrill Foundation, which until it ceased to exist in 1996, gave grants to writers, artists and other foundations. By the mid-90's, Merrill was donating around $300,000 a year through the foundation." Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  16. ^ Moffett, Judith. [http://www.judithmoffett.com/newsletter.htm?newsletter= Days of 1973: A Week in Athens], ''Notre Dame Review'', Summer/Fall 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  17. ^ "It ended badly—with Hemingway (a student none of us knew, invited for his looks) pistol-whipping our poor drunken Somerset Maugham under a blossoming tree—but what was an ointment without flies? In memory the party shimmers and resounds like a Fête by Debussy. Freedom to be oneself is all very well; the greater freedom is not to be oneself." James Merrill, ''A Different Person'', Knopf 1993, p. 129.
  18. ^ White, Edmund, editor. ''Loss Within Loss: Artists in the Age of AIDS.'' Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2001, p. 282. Introducing Merrill at a December 13, 1993 New York poetry reading at the YMHA, novelist Allan Gurganus said: "His genius for friendship is, if possible, his single greatest genius. He has, almost secretly, created a foundation dedicated to encouraging gifted young painters and writers. The foundation makes raids of vigilante kindness. It had helped those young artists who are healthy and those who discover they are dying just as they've begun."
  19. ^ Merrill, James. ''A Different Person: A Memoir'', New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993, Chapter I. "As it happened, my father had taken a much earlier step to ensure his children's independence, by creating an unbreakable trust in each of our names. Thus at five years old I was rich, and would hold my own pursestrings when I came of age, whether I liked it or not. I wasn't sure I did like it. The best-intentioned people, knowing whose son I was and powerless against their own snobbery, could set me writhing under attentions I had done nothing to merit." Reprinted in ''Collected Prose'', Knopf, 2004, p. 461.
  20. ^ Merrill, James. ''A Different Person: A Memoir''. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993, Chapter XVI; reprinted in ''Collected Prose'', Knopf, 2004, pp. 619-620.
  21. ^ Merrill, James. ''A Different Person'', Knopf, 1993, Chapter II. Mustered out of the army in early 1945, Merrill returned to Amherst and civilian life, and soon began attending Kimon Friar's weekly lectures and workshops at the New York YMHA. Friar introduced Merrill to city friends including Anaïs Nin, W. H. Auden, and Maya Deren.
  22. ^ An (incomplete) list of writers and artists known to have received Ingram Merrill Foundation support can be found on its separate Wikipedia entry.
  23. ^ James Merrill, [https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1995/03/27/the-mad-scene/amp “The Mad Scene”], ''The New Yorker'', March 19, 1995. The poem originally appeared in ''[https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=29216 Poetry Magazine]'' in October/November 1962, and in the collection ''Water Street'' (Atheneum).
  24. ^ [http://www.nationalbook.org/nba1967.html "National Book Awards – 1967"]. National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-03. <br/>(With acceptance speech by Merrill and essay by Megan Snyder-Camp from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
  25. ^ [http://www.nationalbook.org/nba1979.html "National Book Awards – 1979"]. National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-03.
  26. ^ cite web|title=Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter M|url=http://www.amacad.org/publications/BookofMembers/ChapterM.pdf|publisher=American Academy of Arts and Sciences|accessdate=15 April 2011