James Merrill served as an Army infantryman during World War II and graduated from Amherst College in 1947. Despite great personal wealth derived from unbreakable trusts made early in his childhood, the poet lived modestly.
Though centered on the self, Merrill’s poetry is far from self-centered. Helen Vendler observed in the New York Times Book Review that the best of Merrill’s poems “are autobiographical without being ‘confessional’: they show none of that urgency to reveal the untellable or unspeakable that we associate with the poetry we call ‘confessional’.”
“Already in midsummer, I miss your feet and fur/ for simple creature that you were/ what have you become?”