The Collected Poems of James Merrill makes available--in a handsome, even plush edition-- the first extensive compilation of Merrill's work since the poet's death in 1995. Apart from his juvenilia and the epic four-part poem, The Changing Light at Sandover (1982), practically everything else is here: all of the ten trade volumes, of course, along with poems from The Black Swan (published privately, 1946) and The Yellow Pages (1974), a collection made up of poems Merrill excluded from earlier volumes. Editors J. D. McClatchy and Stephen Yenser have also included twenty-one translations and forty-four other poems, some of them never before published, gathered from magazines and special editions. The result is certainly a weighty book, but more than that, it is a cornucopia of poetic delights that will reaffirm Merrill's position among the greatest of twentieth century American poets.
Traversing these pages, one expects to be reminded of the sheer linguistic skill embodied in his lyrics, reminded of his urbanity and wit (words no critic can seem to avoid using), and his sheer sense of style. He was, after all, an acknowledged virtuoso of form and music, gifted with an extraordinary ear and capable of exquisite small touches as well as grand operatic gestures. But the surprise comes from recognizing--beyond the dazzlingly rendered surface--the depth of his insight, the penetrating and unflinching gaze he directs at a whole...
(The entire section is 441 words.)