James Schuyler Again …

… or you can’t keep a good poet down. I’ve blogged before about James Schuyler and the combination of pride and pleasure it gave me when Slow Dancer Press was the first to publish his Last Poems in their entirety in this country, together with an afterword by the British poet, Lee Harwood.

At the time of writing that, April 2015, I thought there were no more than a few copies of that edition remaining, but, lo and behold, in the long overdue act of clearing out one of the cupboards in the room I rather grandly refer to as my office, what should I find but a treasure trove of Last Poems. Thirty copies, to be exact.

schuyler

For those of you to whom Schuyler is little more than a name, one of the lesser lights perhaps of the New York Poetry scene that congregated around Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery, this collection of late work – if read together with, say, the earlier, and quite wonderful, The Morning of the Poem – attests to the breadth and depth of his poetry, the meticulousness of his style.

The following comes from Harwood’s essay …

Schuyler was bemused and fascinated by the world.  Whether it was the “icy spaces” or “rain quilts the pond” (Rain) or describing the play of light on “a rainy April morning” in The Light Within, he looked and relished what he saw and the words he chose to describe what he saw. As he wrote more directly in the title poem of his earlier book A Few Days

“Let’s love today, the what we have now, this day, not
today or tomorrow or
yesterday, but this passing moment, that will
not come again”

It follows naturally from this that a reader of Schuyler’s poems nearly always finds himself or herself in the present.Not a narrow present, but one that includes asides, memories, double-takes, and all the vivid associations that pour into the brain in a few minutes. Reading one of James Schuyler’s poems often feels like looking over his shoulder as he writes. The process is open to view. In fact the “process” is very much part of the poem. It’s akin to listening to Glenn Gould playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations (and Beethoven’s piano sonatas too). The way Gould tentatively plays the notes, searching his way through the music, as though recreating Bach’s thinking and progress as Bach builds a piece. As though making it up as he goes along. It could go this way? or that? no, this way. In his poem Shadowy Room Schuyler touches on this.

“Perishable perfection
of Glenn Gould playing
Bach purls on, oblivious
of interruption, building
course on
course, harmonious
in all lights,
all weathers …”

Copies of Last Poems are available from Five Leaves Bookshop, 14a Long Row, Nottingham NG1 2DH     Phone: 0115 8373097   Email: bookshop@fiveleaves.co.uk

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Monk’s House & Gardens

Continuing a line from my previous blog about James Schuyler’s poetry and his love – obsession, almost – with flowers and gardens, English ones in particular, here are some photographs from a recent visit to the gardens at Monk’s House, the country home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf from 1919 until Virginia’s death in 1941.

Monk's House © Molly Ernestine Boiling

Monk’s House © Molly Ernestine Boiling

Monk's House © Molly Ernestine Boiling

Monk’s House © Molly Ernestine Boiling

Monk's House © Molly Ernestine Boiling

Monk’s House © Molly Ernestine Boiling

Monk's House © Molly Ernestine Boiling

Monk’s House © Molly Ernestine Boiling

Monk's House © Molly Ernestine Boiling

Monk’s House © Molly Ernestine Boiling

Monk's House © Molly Ernestine Boiling

Monk’s House © Molly Ernestine Boiling

 

James Schuyler: Last Poems

I’m following a link here: one that takes me from my previous post – A Question of the Light – to a visit made this Sunday just past to Monk’s House in Sussex, once the home of Virgina and Leonard Woolf, and from there to James Schuyler, perhaps the least celebrated of the New York Poets, an Anglophile who never set foot in England, but who was fascinated by the English countryside and English gardens and read about them continuously, amongst his favourite sources being Virginia Woolf’s diaries.

One of the books I am most proud to have published under the Slow Dancer imprint, is Schuyler’s Last Poems, which brought into print in the UK for the first time thirty poems written towards the end of his life, along with a perceptive and affectionate afterword by Lee Harwood.

Here’s one of the poems …

The Light Within

and the light without: the shade
of a rainy April morning:
subtle shadows
cast backward by lamplight
upon daylight,
soft unforceful daylight
the essence
of cloud cover
descending mistily into the street:
and the unwhitely
white surround of a curling photograph
models itself
as north light
modeled the face in the photograph:

and against a window
a tree shows
each lightly tinted leaf
another shadowy shade, some
transparently, some
not: and, in the corner
the dark bisected
by the light that falls
from without (created
by its absence)
lies luminous within itself:
the luminous dark within

schuyler

 

A Day Like Any Other …

Jane Friedlicher: Still Life with Yellow Flowers

Jane Freilicher: Still Life with Yellow Flowers

Spring has sprung …

It’s the yellow dust inside the tulips.
It’s the shape of a tulip.
It’s the water in the drinking glass the tulips are in.
It’s a day like any other.

James Schuyler: February

And, okay, I know the flowers in the Freilicher painting are not tulips, just as I know it’s no longer February, but in the overall scheme of things …

Jane Freilicher

Jane Freilicher

March Reading

  • Memory Wall : Anthony Doerr
  • When The Light Goes : Larry McMurtry
  • The Illuminations : Andrew O’Hagen
  • The End of Vandalism : Tom Drury
  • Complications : Atul Gawande
  • Clothes Music Boys: A Memoir : Viv Albertine
  • Selected Poems : James Schuyler

9780374530891

Plus, of course, more David Kynaston – currently around 1952.

Oh, and the marvellous portrait of Schuyler reproduced on the cover of his Selected Poems is by Fairfield Porter.