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Materials for the Book of Ephraim

James Merrill and David Jackson seated at a Ouija board.

The James Merrill Digital Archive is intended as a resource for scholars, students, writers, and teachers. The Archive currently provides digital access to a small cross-section from the James Merrill Papers housed in Special Collections at Washington University in St. Louis.

The later work from American poet James Ingram Merrill (3 March 1926-6 February 1995) reflects his interest in the occult. In what was to become a sustained project, Merrill’s The Book of Ephraim recounts “a Thousand and One Evenings Spent / With David Jackson at the Ouija Board / In Touch with Ephraim Our Familiar Spirit” (ll. 67-69).

The current Materials for The Book of Ephraim were selected with an eye toward the overlap between his Ouija transcripts, drafts, and poems. Of special interest was demonstrating Merrill’s extensive revision process, applied at every stage and to every material scattered in his papers.

Part of the article “When a Poet Raises Spirits At Ouija Board” on James Merrill by Paul Anastasi, published in the International Herald Tribune, March 8, 1978.

The James Merrill Digital Archive is a collaboration between the University Libraries and the Humanities Digital Workshop.


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