Literary Analysis Of James Merrill's 'Water Street'

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Childhood as lost paradise is a theme which plasters James Merrill’s 1962 volume Water Street. In spite of not being generally considered a typical confessional poet, his poems are autobiographical without being dramatic. It seems that Merrill takes a long time to choose his words because he does not simply want to reveal everything at once, but gradually, through a feeling of being an incomplete, resentful man who lost something important to him, in memory-dressed images. Simple moments in his life become complex meditations. Judith Moffett articulates this kind of distance by comparing Merrill with a truly confessional poet, Robert Lowell, stating that A continuing access to childhood memories and insights nourishes Merrill’s verse; with Lowell, the memories are most often terrifying and unavailing. Merrill had a privileged childhood, growing up in fabulous wealth and studying in private schools. The one thing that darkened this apparently perfect childhood was his parents’ divorce when he was 12, which made him project a sense of disruption in his poetry. In spite of this apparently gloomy atmosphere, the childhood memory in Water Street is rather spiritual and it seems like the adult writer looks back into his childhood only with nostalgia, desiring to touch a transitional state from the innocence, leaving the parental influence only in his memory. Merrill himself states that: I mean, it’s hard to speak of a child having a sense of reality or unreality, because after

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