December 8, 1913 - July 12, 1966
Delmore Schwartz Notes
Ravaged by mental illness, disaffected, alienated from friends, Delmore Schwartz died alone in a New York City hotel in 1966. In a "Dream Song," the poet John Berryman wrote of an unexpected visit paid him by Schwartz:we never learnt why he came, or what he wanted.Schwartz began his rise in the New York intellectual circle of poets with his collection of poems called In Dreams Begin Responsibilities published in 1938. In 1959 he won the Bollingen Prize in Poetry and the Poetry Society of America's Shelley Memorial Award for the collection of poems and prose called Summer Knowledge.
His mission was obscure. His mission was real,
Schwartz is considered a cerebral, "city" poet known and respected by fellow poets but not widely read outside this group. His influence, however, is more dispersed than usually thought. For example, Lou Reed, founder of the Velvet Underground, a rock and roll band, was a student of Schwartz's at Syracuse University. Reed refers to Schwartz as a "spiritual godfather." Scott Spencer wrote a novel about young love and called it Endless Love after the following poem by Schwartz.
I Am a Book I Neither Wrote nor Read
I am a book I neither wrote nor read,
A comic, tragic play in which new masquerades
Astonishing as guns crackle like raids
Newly each time, whatever one is prepared
To come upon, suddenly dismayed and afraid,
As in the dreams which make the fear of sleep
The terror of love, the depth one cannot leap.
How the false truths of the years of youth have passed!
Have passed at full speed like trains which never stopped
There where I stood and waited, hardly aware,
How little I knew, or which of them was the one
To mount and ride to hope or where true hope arrives.
I no more wrote than read that book which is
The self I am, half hidden as it is
From one and all who see within a kiss
The lounging formless blackness of an abyss.
How could I think the brief years were enough
To prove the reality of endless love?
Schwartz was a lifelong baseball enthusiast and a great fan of the New York/San Francisco Giants. He kept notebooks full of baseball statistics. He called baseball "the most lucid product of American life."
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