Poet James Merrill to Speak in ‘Voices’

Times Book Editor

What sort of poet allows his or her work to be turned into a public entertainment? One who is perhaps more showman than person of letters? That question might once have been answered in the affirmative on American campuses.

No longer. On April 11 at 8 p.m. in Schoenberg Hall, UCLA will present the second public performance of James Merrill’s “Voices From Sandover,” a dramatic poetry reading for three voices, derived from Merrill’s epic poem “The Changing Light at Sandover.”

Merrill is one of America’s most Parnassian poets, winner of two National Book Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, a Bollingen Prize and--for “The Changing Light at Sandover”--both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for poetry. He is a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, first poet laureate of Connecticut and, this year, recipient of the National Arts Club’s Medal of Honor for Literature. You don’t get much further from the poetic fringe than James Merrill.


On April 11, Merrill will appear with actors Peter Hooten and Leah Doyle in a dramatic reading with special lighting and a musical score by Roger Bourland, all under the direction of James Sheldon. This work was first staged at Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Theater and will next be performed at the Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Stephen Yenser, a member of the UCLA English department and author of a commentary on Merrill’s work, calls “Voices From Sandover” “less an abridgment than a work in its own right. . . . If we can imagine that one day there will be an opera derived from Merrill’s visionary epic, that is partly because of the power of this inspired staging.”

“Voices From Sandover” is free and open to the public. For parking ($3) and directions to Schoenberg Hall, go to the kiosk at Hilgard and Westholme avenues on the eastern edge of the UCLA campus.