C.S. Merrill


O’ Keeffe:

Days in a Life


6 x 8 inches

144 pages

ISBN 0-9631909-8-9




How to see her?: A question which runs throughout this suite of anecdotal poems about Georgia O’Keeffe. Carol Merrill, her cook, librarian, reader, nurse, and companion from 1973-79, offers a unique portrait—brief pictures linked toward a respectful bow, words bare as flint chips—a purity of language as honor. No romantic figure here, but O’Keeffe in feisty form and essential substance: real and strong and rooted in the red hills of Abiquiu.

Carol Merrill’s tribute to Georgia O’Keeffe are poems in the shape of finely rendered sketches, some of them even paintings. These intimate images convey the delicate shape of O’Keeffe’s final years in New Mexico.

—Joy Harjo


When I got O’Keeffe mss I sat down after midnite at kitchen table when I should’ve been in bed & read thru in an hour because it was interesting, curious, distinctive, focused, condensed, epiphanous, ordinary & understandable. The details are all, sacramentalizing everyday life in a world of genius—a woman, vast space, chewy intelligence, almost selfless observation.

—Allen Ginsberg


'Days' paints a different picture of O'Keeffe
Karen Stone

Another book about Georgia O'Keeffe? Another book of poems?
Yes and no.
On an informational level, Carol S. Merrill's O'Keeffe: Days in a Life is indeed a book of poems about the painter.
But on an artistic level, the book is a joy to behold.

Merrill, who was O'Keeffe's aide, cook, librarian, reader, nurse and companion from 1973 through 1979, offers an uncommon perspective of this world-famous painter. It is the unique portait of a feisty and strong woman artist by a poet who comes across as senseitive and strong.

In her March, 1978, poem—the untitled poems are printed chronologically—Merrill writes about the meeting of their different artistic worlds.

"Sunday morning O'Keeffe and I
discussed how to find your own voice,
your own vision.
I argued a painter can get off
alone and work in color
but a writer must use words
which requires a community
of minds, you write to a community
of minds, I said.
She spoke harshly, very loudly,
'Do you think that
community of minds cares a moment
for what you have to say?
Of course they don't!...'"

For those curious about O'Keeffe's art and life, Merrill, a librarian at Albuquerque's Garfield Middle School, says a great deal about her in a most refreshing manner.

The book is like a clear drop of water into a pond teeming with too much life. In her spare use of words, Merrill paints a picture of the artist quite different from all the books, calendars and articles about O'Keeffe.

Merrill's poems travel from the mundane to the sublime. And through Merrill's words, O'Keeffe shares much--the past, how she paints, her late husband Alfred Stieglitz, music, food, rattlesnakes. And much more. If you don't like poetry, but like O'Keeffe, you'll love this book. If you don't like O'Keeffe, but like poetry, you'll love this book anyway.

Albuquerque Journal
Copyright © 1996 Karen Stone


O'Keeffe answered my letter.I first visited her one day in August, 1973. She hired me to work on weekends as librarian, secretary, cook, nurse, or companion from 1973 to 1979. This poetry is from my journals written a few hours after the experiences.
               O'Keeffe did not like poetry. However, she would listen to Witter Bynner's translations of Chinese poets in Jade Mountain. O'Keeffe often had me read aloud to her from biographies of the great. Many times we re-read an ancient Taoist text Secret of the Golden Flower.
               O'Keeffe taught me to cook. She taught me to look, really look, at things. She showed me how to live. She let me know her when she faced old age, blindness, and death in the last years of her life.
               O'Keeffe must be remembered. She was a woman of fierce temper, infinite kindness, and impeccable sense of artistry. She encouraged me and changed my life.
               I like to think of her walking in beauty beneath ancient cliffs at Ghost Ranch. This work is thanks for the strength of her will and the spirit of her work.

C.S. Merrill
September, 1995

Carol Merrill lives in New Mexico.