The Last Book/Poem I Loved: “The Changing Light at Sandover” by James Merrill


It took me three months to pound my way through James Merrill’s epic poem, his universe, his vision of the afterlife as told through a Ouija board in a conversation between Merrill, his partner DJ, and the characters on the other side of the mirror.

It’s exquisitely crafted–I found myself thinking in rhymed iambic pentameter after reading parts of the second book, “Mirabell: Books of Number”–and it holds together remarkably well for a poem of such scope and length. My suggestion, if you decide to take this book on, is to be patient. It’s not an easy read, especially in parts of “Mirabell,” but the end result is worth the effort. Some days I would only be able to read ten pages before becoming exhausted by the density of the language–other days, I could roll for forty. But I always came back to it.

Brian Spears is Senior Poetry Editor of The Rumpus and the author of A Witness in Exile (Louisiana Literature Press, 2011). His poem “Upon Reading That Andromeda Will One Day Devour Triangulum and Come For Us Next” was featured in Season 9 of Motion Poems. More from this author →