Friday, 12 March 2021

Christopher Merrill : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Michael Benedikt’s anthology, The Poetry of French Surrealism, which I discovered as a graduate student in a used bookstore in Seattle, decisively shaped my thinking. The practice of automatic writing freed me to follow the language wherever it might lead, exploring subjects and themes I might otherwise have avoided. Then I co-translated André Breton’s Constellations, a collection of prose poems based on a series of gouaches that Joan Miró made during World War II, and a book that Breton wrote with Paul Éluard and René Char, Slow Under Construction; the first inspired my book, Necessities (White Pine Press, 2013), and the second gave me the idea for 7 Poets, 4 Days, 1 Book (Trinity University Press, 2009), which I wrote with Marvin Bell, István László Geher, Ksenia Golubovich, Simone Inguanez, Tomaž Šalamun, and Dean Young. The joy I experienced in making that book led to a nearly-decade-long collaboration with Marvin Bell. We published the first volume of what we imagined to be a trilogy in 2016, After the Fact: Scripts & Postscripts, completed the second volume, If & When, at the start of the pandemic, and were about a third of the way into the final volume, Here & Now, when Marvin passed away in December. Working with him was a pure joy, and the grief I feel over his death has left me reeling.

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