Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 12 (James Schuyler)

Collected Poems
Schuyler, James
Collected Poems

I think I bought this at St. Mark's Books back in the mid-nineties, but I am not one hundred percent certain. I may have bought it when I moved to Buffalo. Definitely one of my favorite poetry book covers of all time, with its lovely portrait of the author by Darragh Park wrapping around the spine (though it stops at the back cover, I should note).

Eileen Myles first told me about James Schuyler when I took a workshop with her at the New School. I'd been reading O'Hara and Ashbery and Ted Berrigan pretty religiously at that point, but I hadn't yet delved into Schuyler's work. Eileen worked as his personal assistant for a couple of years when she was younger. I remember her saying that some anthologist once refused to let her include this info in her bio.

Anyhow, I did not like Schuyler's work for a long time. I couldn't exactly say why, but I think it had something to do with trying to read his longer work, like "The Morning of the Poem." It just seemed, well, too long! Over the years, though, I have gone back to it and have found it especially useful as I have made the transition in my own poetry from short poems with short lines to longer poems with longer lines.

Maybe he's one of those poets you save for adulthood. O'Hara, who I love, is in many ways a younger person's poet. The emotions are immediate, on the surface, very intense and direct. They are concerned with interpersonal relationships, with heartbreak and disappointment and sex and love. Schuyler's poems are more layered, slow, meditative. Even though he, too, is concerned with a kind of immediacy, he holds his gaze on things quite a bit longer than O'Hara does, giving you time to take in more details.


Well, no time to type a poem exemplifies what I just said. Here's a shorty but a goodie.

From Collected Poems


Past is past, and if one

remembers what one meant
to do and never did, is
not to have thought to do
enough? Like gather-
ing of one of each I
planned, to gather one
of each kind of clover,
daisy, paintbrush that
grew in that field
the cabin stood in and
study them one afternoon
before they wilted. Past
is past. I salute
that various field.

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