Monday, March 14, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 41 (James Merrill)

Merrill, James
The Changing Light at Sandover


Purchased at Rust Belt Books.

When we were in grad school together, it was Ben Friedlander who recommended James Merrill to me. I believe his quote was, "excellent poetry, execrable politics." Which about sums it up. I don't think I ever got through the whole of this, but I have generally pleasant memories of having read the parts that I did.

But I have to say I find the whole seance thing a bit silly, which makes it hard to read works like this or some of Robert Duncan or HD or Yeats. Spiritualism is one of those content areas I find it difficult to take seriously, regardless of the quality of the writing.

from The Changing Light at Sandover

from The Book of Ephraim

Venise, pavane, nirvana, vice, wrote Proust
Justly in his day. But in ours? The monumental
"I" of stone— on top, an adolescent
And his slain crocodile, both guano-white—
Each visit stands for less. And from the crest of
The Academia Bridge the (is that thunder?)
Palaces seem empty-lit display
Rooms for glass companies. Hold still,
Breathes the canal. But then it stirs,
Ruining another batch of images.
A Lido leaden. A whole heavenly city
Sinking, titanic ego mussel-blue
Abulge in gleaming nets of nerve, of pressures
Unregistered by the barometer
Stuck between Show and Showers. Whose once fabled
Denizens, Santofior and Guggenheim
(Historical garbage, in the Marxist phrase)
Invisibly— to all but their valets
Still through the dull red mazes caked with slime
Bearing some scented drivel of undying
Love and regret— are dying. and high time.
The wooden bridge, feeling their tread no longer,
Grumbles: per me va la gente nova.
Gente nova? A population explosion
Of the greatest magnitude and brilliance?
Who are these thousands entering the dark
Ark of the moment, two by two?
Hurriedly, as by hazard paired, some pausing
On the bridge for a last picture. Touching, strange,
If either is the word, this need of theirs
To be forever smiling, holding still
For the other, the companion focusing
Through tiny frames of anxiousness. There. Come.

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