Thursday, May 31, 2012
James Merrill Quotes
"And, as I have said, it's made me think twice about the imagination. If the spirits aren't external, how astonishing the mediums become! Victor Hugo said of his voices that they were like his own mental powers multiplied by five."
"Arthur Young's Reflexive Universe - fascinating but too schematic to fit into my scheme. The most I could hope for was a sense of the vocabulary and some possible images."
"At college I'd seen my dead frog's limbs twitch under some applied stimulus or other - seen, but hadn't believed. Didn't dream of thinking beyond or around what I saw."
"Because of its length and looniness I'd taken to calling it the Divine Comedy - not of course a usable title, until David Jackson thought of making it plural. Dante, subtler as always, let posterity affix the adjective."
"Before trying a novel I wrote a couple of plays."
"But those two plays left me on fresh terms with language. I didn't always have to speak in my own voice."
"Chiefly, I think, the - to me - unprecedented way in which the material came. Not through flashes of insight, wordplay, trains of thought. More like what a friend, or stranger, might say over a telephone."
"Don't ask me to paraphrase his thesis - but, reading Jaynes as I was finishing Mirabell, I rather goggled. Because the poem is set by and large in two adjacent rooms: a domed red one where we took down the messages, and a blue one, dominated by an outsize mirror, where we reflected upon them."
"He puts his right hand lightly on the cup, I put my left, leaving the right free to transcribe, and away we go. We get, oh, 500 to 600 words an hour. Better than gasoline."
"I'd like to think the scientists need us - but do they? Did Newton need Blake?"
"In life, there are no perfect affections."
"Knowing some Greek helped defuse forbidding words - not that I counted much on using them. You'll find only trace elements of this language in the poem."
"Oh, I picked up a two-volume Guide to Science by Asimov - very useful, still, each time I forget how the carbon atom is put together, or need to shake my head over elemental tables."
"Strange about parents. We have such easy access to them and such daunting problems of communication."
"The simplest science book is over my head."