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Three Poems

Charles Simic, 9 September 2010

... down Madison Avenue In the summer crowd, stark naked and proud of herself? Where’s the poet Delmore Schwartz I once saw sitting In Washington Square Park gesturing theatrically to himself? Where’s the young man in a wheelchair pushed by his mother Who kept shouting about wanting to kill more Vietnamese? Mr Undertaker, sitting in a window of a ...
The ego is always at the wheel 
by Delmore Schwartz.
Carcanet, 146 pp., £6.95, May 1987, 0 85635 702 2
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A Nest of Ninnies 
by John Ashbery and James Schuyler.
Carcanet, 191 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 85635 699 9
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... Like Tristram Shandy, Delmore Schwartz so hated his name that he sometimes used to attribute all of his misfortunes to it. It was an obsession he enjoyed feeding: he would invent ridiculous sources for it – a delicatessen, a Pullman railroad car, a Tammany Hall club – while in his stories and poems he would always inflict on his leading character, who was always himself, a name exotic or absurd, half old-time Jewish and half Hollywood – Shenandoah Fish, Hershey Green, Cornelius Schmidt ...

How far shall I take this character?

Richard Poirier: The Corruption of Literary Biography, 2 November 2000

Bellow: A Biography 
by James Atlas.
Faber, 686 pp., £25, November 2000, 0 571 14356 3
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... over the complete, ten-year span of its writing. The author, James Atlas, whose biography of Delmore Schwartz appeared in 1977 and who is the general editor of the Penguin Lives Series, was given full access to Bellow’s letters and unpublished manuscripts and final permission to quote all the passages he wanted to use. He was free to ...

Poets and Pretenders

John Sutherland, 2 April 1987

The Great Pretender 
by James Atlas.
Viking, 239 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 9780670814619
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The Position of the Body 
by Richard Stern.
Northwestern, 207 pp., $21.95, November 1986, 0 8101 0730 9
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The Setting Sun and the Rolling World 
by Charles Mungoshi.
Heinemann, 202 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 434 48166 1
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Conversations with Lord Byron on Perversion, 162 Years after his Lordship’s Death 
by Amanda Prantera.
Cape, 174 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 9780224024235
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... is a first novel. But Atlas has some prior fame as the author of a powerful biography of Delmore Schwartz, America’s poète maudit who died tragically unfulfilled in 1966, having lived out the truth of one of his best essays: ‘The Isolation of the Modern Poet’. The Great Pretender tells the story of a tyro versifier, who comes to ...

Knives, Wounds, Bows

John Bayley, 2 April 1987

Randall Jarrell’s Letters 
edited by Mary Jarrell.
Faber, 540 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 571 13829 2
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The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore 
edited by Patricia Willis.
Faber, 723 pp., £30, January 1987, 0 571 14788 7
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... of academe over the years, were Jacques Barzun, R.P. Blackmur, Alfred Kazin, Lionel Trilling, Delmore Schwartz, Allen Tate, Kenneth Burke, Robert Fitzgerald, Leslie Fiedler and John Crowe Ransom – this last its founder as a school of literary criticism ‘to teach those who teach it’. Marianne Moore, in Brooklyn, had a quieter time, but was just ...

All the girls said so

August Kleinzahler: John Berryman, 2 July 2015

The Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 427 pp., £11.99, October 2014, 978 0 374 53455 4
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77 Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 84 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53452 3
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Berryman’s Sonnets 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 127 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53454 7
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The Heart Is Strange 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 179 pp., £17.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 22108 9
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Poets in their Youth 
by Eileen Simpson.
Farrar, Straus, 274 pp., £11.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 23559 8
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... sometimes known as ‘confessional’ poets or ‘mid-century’ poets: Lowell, Berryman, Jarrell, Delmore Schwartz, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop and Theodore Roethke. The last two were more peripheral, both less overtly confessional, especially Bishop, and not so much on the scene, New York or Ivy League (though Bishop turned up ...

John and Henry

Christopher Reid, 2 December 1982

The Life of John Berryman 
by John Haffenden.
Routledge, 451 pp., £15, September 1982, 0 7100 9216 4
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Poets in their Youth: A Memoir 
by Eileen Simpson.
Faber, 272 pp., £10.95, September 1982, 0 571 11925 5
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... account both of her marriage and of the extraordinary circle of friends, including Robert Lowell, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell and Saul Bellow, that Berryman gathered at this period. Berryman’s life can be summarised, albeit crudely, as follows: he was born in 1914, the son of John Allyn Smith, who died in 1926, apparently by suicide; his mother ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: Reagan and Rambo, 3 October 1985

... New York Times magazine, and took us over the usual jumps. Gone are the days of Partisan Review, Delmore Schwartz, Dwight Mac Donald etc etc. No longer the tempest of debate over Trotsky, The Waste Land, Orwell, blah, blah. Today the assimilation of the Jewish American, the rise of rents in midtown Manhattan, the erosion of Village life, yawn, yawn. The ...

Performing Seals

Christopher Hitchens: The PR Crowd, 10 August 2000

Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals 
by David Laskin.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., $26, January 2000, 0 684 81565 6
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... from a man, or men, and Laskin is consistently disobliging about both her and her resulting work. Delmore Schwartz once opined that All poets’ wives have rotten lives, Their husbands look at them like knives ... Exactitude their livelihood And rhyme their only gratitude. He would have been stirred to his depths, perhaps, by Sylvia Plath’s implied ...

The Unstoppable Upward

James Wolcott: ‘The Life of Saul Bellow’, 24 January 2019

The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife, 1965-2005 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 864 pp., £35, November 2018, 978 0 224 10188 2
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... Atlas’s highly anticipated successor to his wunderkind biography of the brilliant, bedevilled Delmore Schwartz, whose combustible presence served as the inspiration for Von Humboldt Fleisher in Bellow’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Humboldt’s Gift. With Delmore Schwartz: The Life of an American Poet, Atlas ...

Homage to Ezra Pound

C.K. Stead, 19 March 1981

The Poetic Achievement of Ezra Pound 
by Michael Alexander.
Faber, 247 pp., £7.95, April 1979, 0 571 10560 2
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Ezra Pound and the Pisan Cantos 
by Anthony Woodward.
Routledge, 128 pp., £7.95, April 1980, 0 7100 0372 2
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Ezra Pound and the Cantos: A Record of Struggle 
by Wendy Stallard Flory.
Yale, 321 pp., £12.60, July 1980, 0 300 02392 8
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Ezra Pound and His World 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Thames and Hudson, 127 pp., £5.95, February 1981, 0 500 13069 8
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End to Torment: A Memoir of Ezra Pound with Poems from Ezra Pound’s H.D. Book 
edited by Norman Holmes Pearson and Michael King.
Carcanet, 84 pp., £2.95, February 1980, 0 85635 318 3
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... Order of Merit, the Nobel Prize. Eliot was celebrated, studied, written about, endlessly cited (Delmore Schwartz wrote in 1949 of ‘the literary dictatorship of T.S. Eliot’), while Pound, released in 1958 after 13 years’ confinement, soon lapsed into the silences which are his final Cantos. Two separate facts kept his reputation ...

Sad Stories

Adam Begley, 5 January 1989

Capote: A Biography 
by Gerald Clarke.
Hamish Hamilton, 632 pp., £16.95, July 1988, 0 241 12549 9
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Jean Stafford: A Biography 
by David Roberts.
Chatto, 494 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7011 3010 5
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... in life she was married to Robert Lowell and was friends with Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom and Delmore Schwartz, and that later she married A.J. Liebling and was friends with Louis Auchincloss, Wilfrid Sheed and Howard Moss, does not suffice. Roberts hopes to add spice to his book by playing detective with Stafford’s medical record – this also ...

Glittering Fiend

Ian Hamilton: John Berryman, 9 December 1999

Berryman's Shakespeare 
edited by John Haffenden.
Farrar, Straus, 396 pp., $35, February 1999, 0 374 11205 3
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John Berryman’s Personal Library: A Catalogue 
by Richard Kelly.
Lang, 433 pp., £39, March 1999, 0 8204 3998 3
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... Berryman began to spend most of his off-campus time in the company of mad or near-mad poets like Delmore Schwartz and Robert Lowell. Even the professors he saw most of – Van Doren, Richard Blackmur – published poems and were reckoned to be mildly cranky. Van Doren, for instance, would later advise Berryman that ‘scholarship’ was fit only ‘for ...

In the Circus

William Wootten: Low-Pressure Poetry, 3 August 2006

The Collected Poems 
by Kenneth Koch.
Knopf, 761 pp., £40, November 2005, 1 4000 4499 5
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... along with creative writing as among his chief interests. At Harvard, he studied under Delmore Schwartz. More important, he became friends with John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara, like-minded fellow students. On graduation Koch moved to New York, where he lived downstairs from the painter Jane Freilicher, became acquainted with the New York art ...

Turtle upon Turtle

Christian Lorentzen: Nathan Englander, 22 March 2012

What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank 
by Nathan Englander.
Weidenfeld, 207 pp., £12.99, February 2012, 978 0 297 86769 2
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... of his plotting and the cautious plodding of his prose. In ‘Peep Show’ he does a soft-core Delmore Schwartz act, aping the Freudian terror of the stories ‘In Dreams Begin Responsibilities’ and ‘The Track Meet’. Allen Fein, a married man with a shiksa wife, enters a Times Square peep show and buys several tokens; after seeing one beautiful ...

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