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as well as excerpts from his long unavailable epic poem Genesis, a never-completed book-length work on T.S. Eliot, and unpublished poems from his archives.
[V]ivid details of lived experience are thrust throughout Schwartz’s writing. Readers are left reeling among elemental features of the world, physical and immediate yet drenched as well with historical and literary ambience.
—Patrick James Dunagan, Rain Taxi
For Schwartz poetry was ongoing and unstoppable, a process as compulsive and endless as the mariner’s telling of his tale.
—Mark Ford, Times Literary Supplement
Once and for All serves as an ideal introduction for the curious reader.
—Adam Kirsch, Tablet
This new collection of Delmore Schwartz’s work reads like a literary “CV of Failures,” a powerful testament to a life shaken by the Great Depression. As we navigate the long road to national recovery, we can use his writing both as a mirror and as a compass.
—Jason Boog, The Los Angeles Review of Books
Once and For All is the latest and most comprehensive collection of his work to date and the volume takes on a very valuable task: it attempts to give Schwartz’s provocative and multifaceted literary legacy its long-deserved due.
—Matt Hanson, The Arts Fuse
This richly illuminating collection should help secure Schwartz the renewed appreciation he deserves.
—Donna Seaman, Booklist
This is a consistently intriguing volume that devotees and neophytes will want on their shelf.
Delmore’s genius survives in the sound of his words, in his hypnotizing lines.