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UCLA Magazine Fall 2002
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Fall 2002
The Scholar & the Poet
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Now Yenser is involved in an even more expansive endeavor. He is, with McClatchy, co-executor of Merrill's literary estate. Together they are laboring to compile and edit a definitive set of Merrill's work. Collected Novels and Plays is due out in November from Alfred A. Knopf. In it are all of Merrill's three plays — The Immortal Husband (1956), The Bait (1960) and The Birthday (1947) — and his two novels, The Seraglio (1957) and The (Diblos) Notebook (1965).

The collection joins Merrill's Collected Poems, which the team published last year to critical acclaim. If all goes according to plan, three more volumes of Merrill's work will follow in rapid succession through 2007.

"When Robert Lowell died in 1977, he was thought to be the best living poet, yet he's almost vanished because his executors haven't come up with a definitive version of his work," says McClatchy. "Unless good editions of a poet's work are available, the work goes unread and untaught and it fades from sight."

Yenser's friends, students and colleagues insist that if anybody's up to the task, it's the unflagging champion not just of Merrill's work, but of all contemporary American poetry.

In his own right, Yenser recently released a collection of essays on poetry, A Boundless Field: American Poetry at Large. In it, he explores 36 contemporary poets working in an array of styles, including formalism, neoformalism, language poetry and postmodern maximalism.

"There is now such talent as has rarely been seen at once in American poetry," he writes in the book, which takes its title from the sanguine view of American poetry expressed by Walt Whitman in his 1868 essay, "Democratic Vistas."

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