A short essay of mine on James Merrill, plus a sonnet of his
Merrill's sonnet is one of 5 linked sonnets celebrating his friend, the avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren. If you're curious about her work, you may find her most famous short film Meshes of the Afternoon on YouTube and elsewhere, and also in McCabe's video collection. Beware: it's scary and disturbing and profound, like a dream-nightmare. But it's also weirdly mystical and tender, I think.... Deren was a maven in both the LA and Greenwich Village (NY) bohemian/artist communities, especially in the 1940s-60s. She also lived, traveled, and did research throughout the Caribbean, which is where she learned about the Haitian goddess of water, rebirth, dance, and love—Erzulie—who is featured in Merrill's poem.