March 23, 2001
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass.—An extraordinary gathering of friends and admirers of poet James Merrill will meet in Johnson Chapel at Amherst College on Thursday, April 12 at 4 p.m. Former poet laureate Richard Wilbur (Amherst ’42), poets Agha Shahid Ali, Daniel Hall, Glyn Maxwell, Joe Langland, Peggy O’Brien, Mary Jo Salter, Susan Snively and David Sofield will bring to life again the words of a man who wrote poetry “the way the rest of us breathe,” as poet J. D. McClatchy has said. McClatchy, one of the editors of Merrill’s critically praised new Collected Poems (Knopf, 2001), will join in the reading and remembrances.

Following the reading, there will be a public reception in the Archives and Special Collections Room at the Frost Library, where a collection of Merrill manuscripts, books and memorabilia will be on display. The Ouija board and cup that Merrill and his companion David Jackson used to write The Changing Light at Sandover (1982), perhaps his best-known work, will also be on display.

Born in 1926, James Merrill graduated from Amherst College in 1947 and died in 1995. He taught English briefly at Amherst and lived in Stonington, Connecticut, Athens and Key West. From The Black Swan (1946) through A Scattering of Salts (1995), he wrote twelve books of poems. He also published two plays, The Immortal Husband (1956) and The Bait (1960); two novels, The Seraglio (1957) and The (Diblos) Notebook (1965); a book of essays, interviews, and reviews, Recitative (1986); and a memoir, A Different Person (1993).

He was the recipient of numerous awards for his poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize, two National Book Awards, the Bollingen Prize and the first Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress. He was a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

This event is sponsored by the Amherst College Department of English and the Creative Writing Center, which has a Website at