Born in New York City on March 3, 1926, James Ingram Merrill was the son of Charles Merrill, co-founder of the brokerage firm Merrill Lynch. At the age of 16, while still in prep school, Merrill’s father had a collection of his work independently printed under the title Jim’s Book as a surprise gift for the young poet. Merrill went on to Amherst College where, after serving overseas in U. S. Army service during WWII, he graduated summa cum laude. While still in college his second collection of poems, The Black Swan (1946), was independently published. After teaching for a year, he traveled through Europe. He eventually settled in Stonington, CT, and in 1956 used a portion of his sizable inheritance to establish the James Merrill Foundation, which has awarded grants to hundreds of writers. He won the 1973 Bollingen prize for Braving the Elements (1972), and the Pulitzer for his 1976 work Divine Comedies. On February 6, 1995, while on a trip to Arizona, James Merrill died of a heart attack; he was sixty-eight years old. Alfred A. Knopf published A Scattering of Salts, his final work, a month later.