Lost in Translation

by James Merrill

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Topics for Further Study

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  • Read some representative poetry by W. H. Auden and compare themes and structures used in his poetry with those of "Lost in Translation." Three poems you might want to look at are "Musée des Beaux Arts," "Stop All the Clocks. . ."("Twelve Songs: IX," sometimes called "Funeral Blues"), and "The Unknown Citizen."
  • Some scholars find elements of the confessional, an autobiographical verse form, in Merrill's poetry. Research this school of poetry and Merrill's life and determine whether there is any evidence for this claim.
  • Research the effects of divorce on children. What effects do you see on the boy in the poem?
  • Many poets have focused on childhood memories in their poetry, including "Piano" by D. H. Lawrence, "My Papa's Waltz," by Theodore Roethke, and "Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden. In each of these poems, as in "Lost in Translation," the speaker describes a childhood memory that involves a parent. After reading these selections, write your own poem that focuses on a particular memory that you have of an experience with one or both of your parents.

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