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The greatest man I ever met... [His] titles were more than enough to raise the muse of fire on my neck.

—Lou Reed

Delmore Schwartz

20th century American poet and short story writer

After graduating from New York University in 1935 Delmore Schwartz started to work on In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, a book containing a story, a long poem, lyrics, and a play, published three years later by New Directions. In 1941 followed Shenandoah, a play in verse. His narrative poem Genesis appeared in 1943, The World is a Wedding—two short novels and five stories—in 1948, and a further collection of poems and stories, Vaudeville for a Princess, in 1950. The foregoing books were all published by New Directions. In 1959, Doubleday & Co. brought out a new book of poems under the title Summer Knowledge and for this book Mr. Schwartz was named as the winner of the Bollingen Prize in Poetry. At 47 years of age, he was the youngest winner of this prize since its establishment in 1948. Mr. Schwartz was a frequent contributor to literary publications. For a period he was a literary consultant for New Directions in Prose and Poetry, Perspectives, Diogenes and he had been an associate editor of Partisan Review. From 1940 to 1946 he was Briggs-Copeland instructor in English composition at Harvard, becoming an assistant professor in 1946–47. He lectured at Kenyon College, Indiana University, and at New York University and was, for a period (around 1950), resident lecturer and fellow in creative writing at Princeton University. He won a number of prizes in addition to the Bollingen Prize mentioned above. In 1953 he won the award of the National Academy of Arts and Letters and in 1957 he was one of the four Kenyon Review fellows. In July, 1966, the New York literary community was shocked to learn that Schwartz had been found dead in his Broadway hotel room—apparently the victim of a heart-attack. After a cruel mental illness took hold, wrecking his academic career, alienating his friends and family, he disappeared. Though there were rumors that he was still writing, the bulk of his manuscripts were missing at the time of his death.

Once and For All: The Best of Delmore Schwartz

by Delmore Schwartz

Edited by Craig Morgan Teicher
with a contribution by Craig Morgan Teicher and John Ashbery

With his New Directions debut in 1938, the twenty-five-year-old Delmore Schwartz was hailed as a genius and among the most promising writers of his generation. Yet he died in relative obscurity in 1966, wracked by mental illness and substance abuse. Sadly, his literary legacy has been overshadowed by the story of his tragic life.

Among poets, Schwartz was a prototype for the confessional movement made famous by his slightly younger friends Robert Lowell and John Berryman. While his stories and novellas about Jewish American experience laid the groundwork for novels by Saul Bellow (whose Humboldt's Gift is based on Schwartz's life) and Philip Roth.

Much of Schwartz's writing has been out of print for decades. This volume, with an introduction from John Ashbery, aims to restore Schwartz to his proper place in the canon of American literature and give new readers access to the breadth of his achievement. Included are selections from the in-print stories and poems, as well as excerpts from his long unavailable epic poem Genesis, a never-completed book-length work on T.S. Eliot, and unpublished poems from his archives.

Screeno: Stories & Poems

Fiction by Delmore Schwartz

Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966) was one of the finest writers of his generation. Winner of the prestigious Bollingen Prize and the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award, he was hailed by John Ashbery as “one of the major twentieth-century poets." Schwartz’s stories were also widely read and loved, admired by James Atlas for their "unique style that enabled Schwartz to depict his characters with a sort of childlike verisimilitude." Graced with an introduction by Cynthia Ozick, this New Directions Bibelot, Screeno: Stories & Poems, gathers many of Schwartz’s most popular works, including: "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities," "America, America!" "The Heavy Bear who Goes with Me," and "Screeno." Also included is a newly discovered story, "The Heights of Joy," which appeared in the magazine Boulevard in 2002. Delmore Schwartz’s life is legendary. The brightest star of the Partisan Review’s post-war intellectual circle, a lecturer at Harvard and Princeton, and perhaps the greatest poet of his generation, he was stricken by a cruel mental illness and died after living in solitude in a Manhattan hotel. Yet it is his work that endures: "What complicates and enriches Schwartz’s comedy," says Irving Howe, "is, I think, a reaching out toward nobility, a shy aspiring spirituality, a moment or two of achieved purity of feeling."

Last And Lost Poems

Poetry by Delmore Schwartz

With some changes in the contents––most notably the addition of sixteen recently discovered poems and the inclusion of a selection from Genesis Book II–Last & Lost Poems is a paperbound version of the highly praised 1979 Vanguard Press publication. That book disclosed that between 1958 and 1966, despite his disintegrating life, Delmore Schwartz was indeed working and producing poems full of the special magic that had propelled him early on into the literary limelight. Commenting on it, Richard Wilbur hailed Last & Lost Poems as "a valuable book... Schwartz sounds like no other voice in our time––rhapsodic yet philosophic; self-conscious; self-forgetting; unguarded; rejoicing or insisting on obligation to rejoice.. . Wonderfully free and energetic." This volume bears witness to John Ashbery’s praise of Schwartz as a major American poet.

Available: June 01 1989

The Ego Is Always At The Wheel

Nonfiction by Delmore Schwartz

Readers of the poetry and fiction of Delmore Schwartz (1913-66) are familiar with his penetrating psychology and his philosophical concerns, his ability to dramatize ideas and to turn his personal experiences––as immigrant son, New York Jewish intellectual and Wunderkind––into a symbol for the disorders and conflicts of modern life. But Schwartz had another side––the comic. The Ego Is Always at the Wheel, a collection of nineteen essays published now as a New Directions Paperbook, presents the poet as a humorist of no mean accomplishment. In this gathering of Schwartz’s bagatelles, he romps through such topics as the taking of baths and the meaning of existentialism, the abominations of the telephone, fear of having one’s picture taken, the importance of owning an automobile, theories of Hamlet’s behavior and Don Giovanni’s promiscuity, the difficulties of divorce, and more. His "An Author’s Brother-in-Law" and "Memories of a Metropolitan Child, Memoirs of a Giant Fan" provide endearing self-portraits of the young Delmore. And "The Farmer Takes His Time" is an hilarious inquiry into a N.Y. Times news item about a Wisconsin widower who advertises for a wife.

Available: April 01 1986

Summer Knowledge

Poetry by Delmore Schwartz

When this book was first published (as Summer Knowledge) in 1959, Delmore Schwartz was still riding a crest, the golden boy of the literary scene––a position he had commanded ever since the appearance of his first collection of stories and poems in 1938. Summer Knowledge won for him both the prestigious Bollingen Prize in Poetry and the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award. Ironically, indeed tragically, the praise and prizes Schwartz’s poems received did not forestall his decline, and this, his poetic testament, proved to be a final one as well. Overcome by mental illness, alienated from his friends and supporters, he disappeared from the literary scene, in the end to die in 1966 in an obscure Broadway hotel. The tragedy of his life pales before the triumph of his art and craft. Selected Poems clearly places him among the foremost poets of his generation.