Langdon Hammer

Langdon Hammer

Photo by Michael Marsland

STONINGTON — Langdon Hammer, the Niel Gray Jr. professor of English at Yale University, will discuss telling moments and themes in the correspondence of James Merrill on Saturday from 5 to 6 p.m. in a program to be hosted by the James Merrill House via Facebook Live and YouTube.

"I study the cultural history of poetry, its long past and its future," Hammer explains on his Yale website. "I am interested in the ways in which the poet’s life has been imagined and lived. I’m concerned with literary biography and literary theory (enemies, in most people’s minds)."

"I am an archival scholar and a close reader. I edit texts," he adds, "I pore over letters and diaries. I look at the poem on the page (or screen) and listen to it in the ear (which involves acoustics, but also what Robert Frost called 'the imagining ear').   My subject is poetics, of all kinds. I agree with Emily Dickinson: 'If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.'"

Joining Hammer will be Merrill’s friend and literary co-executor, Stephen Yenser, distinguished research professor at UCLA, along with Knopf poetry editor Deborah Garrison.

Literary scholar, author, and Merrill House Committee member Willard Spiegelman will introduce the series and participants which is free and open to all.

For registration and more information, visit

— Nancy Burns-Fusaro

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