Merrill’s Valèry: An Erotics of Translation
DOI link for Merrill’s Valèry: An Erotics of Translation
Merrill’s Valèry: An Erotics of Translation book
On the second page of Recitative, his deftly titled volume of prose reflections, James Merrill offers something in the order of a myth of the birth of the poet. Consider the major poem ‘Lost in Translation,’ the last in James Merrill collected poems, in this context. Like the initial tale of the prose volume, it is centered on Mademoiselle, the poet’s muse of translation. The poem is an assemblage of interlocking fragments or sequences, nodes from different moments of the poet’s life, which emerge as nothing so much as retranslations of each other. The most telling gloss on ‘Lost in Translation’ no doubt occurs in a review Merrill wrote of Allen Mandelbaum’s translation of Dante. Paul Valery’s poem begins with an angel barely veiling his brilliance. The poetic world of ‘Santorini,’ for the most part, is evoked within a triangular configuration remarkably close to Valery’s.