The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War (2011)

Composed in the key of terror, The Tree of the Doves offers an engaging account of Christoper Merrill's travels to distant parts of the world. From jungle to desert to sea, in cities and ruins, he explores how history is shaped by ceremonies, expeditions, and wars. He observes the performance of a banned ritual in Malaysia, retraces Saint-John Perse's epic journey from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar, and tours the Levant in the wake of the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Encountering a wide range of people along the way--artists and politicians, soldiers and refugees--Merrill is as attentive to their individuality as he is attuned to the historical, social, and cultural situations in which they find themselves.


“[T]his philosophically acute amalgam of religious, historical and political reflections will surely incite discussion and lively debate.”

--Kirkus Review


"Part travelogue, part meditation, part literary pilgrimage, The Tree of the Doves offers an original vision of nation, of art, and of the sacred. Through intimate accounts of harrowing travels, and in the tradition of Lewis Hyde's explorations of gift exchange, Christopher Merrill takes us on an essential quest for sources--for art and for a full humanity."

--Mona Simpson, author of My Hollywood


"Christoper Merrill is on an ardent lifelong quest and luckily he is taking us along. His three journeys in The Tree of the Doves are deep, wandering investigations where the old world meets the new, where the person becomes politic, and where peace many times has just left the room. His capacious mind is great company and these are essays in the classic style, sojourns outward and inward, powerfully considered ethical wanderings from Malaysia to the Golan Heights. His mind has worlds in it and his thoughts are great company. These embracing lessons in humanity, geography, and poetry make a special book."
--Ron Carlson, author of Five Skies


"A deeply sympathetic and wide-ranging work of the most artful non-fiction, a splendidly hybrid book of journeys that we need right now."

--Edward Hirsch, author of How to Read a Poem


"One of Merrill's great strengths as a writer has always been his ability to braid the past, present, and future."

--Los Angeles Times

"Christopher Merrill is one of the most gifted, audacious, and accomplished poets of an extraordinarily rich generation. His range of sympathy, subject, and tone has always been prodigious."

--W.S. Merwin, US Poet Laureate