Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Poet On 107 Water Street

And upon water rapt and sheer
A single eye of fire held sway;
A single rower just off shore
Could sit becalmed day after day,
A world from oar to dripping oar;

This stanza, from a poem called “The Day of the Eclipse”, was written by James Ingram Merrill (1926-1995), a famed poet who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1977. In 1955, he relocated from New York City to the village of Stonington, Connecticut, together with his partner, David Jackson. They moved in to 107 Water Street and from the apartment's windows and from the terrace above the apartment they had a lovely view over the harbour of Stonington with its fishing fleet and the waters of Fishers Island Sound.

Merrill bought the whole house and today the James Merrill House is maintained by the Stonington Village Improvement Association, which is also running a Writers-in-Residence programme which began in 1995. During the past Saturday and Sunday the association invited the public to see the James Merrill House. One of the docents was Michael Snediker, writer-in-residence during the autumn of 2006.

The weather was beautiful and the little village was crowed with tourists and visitors, and one would think that the apartment would be packed with people who would like to see this wonderful colourful flat with its memorabilia which once belonged to one of America’s most famous poets during the late twentieth century, but no, during my one hour visit, not more then ten ‘locals’ found their way up the stairs.

From the terrace one can see water both east and west, so anyone who is working on a collection of rowing poems maybe should look into James Merrill Writers-in-Residence programme. I cannot remember being in a more charming spot for that purpose.

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