James Merrill’s biographer channeled his spirit via an Ouija Board

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The poet James Merrill wrote an epic poem called “The Changing Light,” which, according to Dwight Garner of The New York Times, (About That Ouija Board: How Langdon Hammer Summoned a Poet’s Spirit, August 29, 2016) is based on sessions he spent with a “homemade Ouija board. Merrill would frequently take it out after dinner, and try to commune with spirits.”

Garner asked Langdon Hammer, the author of a new biography on James Merrill, whether he himself has used an Ouija Board. He said yes, so Garner asked him:

Did you try to reach Merrill?

We didn’t try. I guess it seemed beside the point. Who had invited us to the table and sat us down at the board if not James Merrill? We were already in contact.

Of course, we asked the quintessential ice-breaking Ouija question — Who’s there? Who are you? The answer came back slowly, one letter at a time, “Psyche.” Now that was uncanny. And appropriate, too, because Psyche, Eros’s lover, is a character in Merrill’s poetry. He identifies with her as a muse and a “sister.”

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from “The Changing Light at Sandover” 
James Merrill
Zero hour. Waiting yet again
For someone to fix the furnace. Zero week
Of the year’s end. Bed that keeps restlessly
Making itself anew from lamé drifts.
Mercury dropping. Cost of living high.
Night has fallen in the glass studio
Upstairs. The fire we huddle with our drinks by
Pops and snaps. Throughout the empty house
(Tenants away until the New Year) taps
Read rest of poem at The Unruly Servant

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