Last Looks, Last Books: The Binocular Poetry of Death, Part 6: Self-Portraits While Dying: James Merrill, "A Scattering of Salts"
Last Looks, Last Books: The Binocular Poetry of Death Helen Vendler, A. Kingsley Porter University Professor, Harvard University. This six-part lecture series considers the final works of five modern American poets, as they "take the last look"—reconciling the interface of life and death, without the promise of an afterlife. The accompanying publication, Last Looks, Last Books: Stevens, Plath, Lowell, Bishop, Merrill, is available for purchase in the Gallery Shop. In this audio podcast of the sixth and final lecture of the series, originally delivered at the National Gallery of Art on May 20, 2007, the esteemed poetry critic and professor Helen Vendler discusses James Merrill's "montage of self-portraits while dying," as he bids farewell in various lyric genres, sketching his life-death state in verse.