James Marcus Schuyler
Biography of James Marcus Schuyler
James Marcus Schuyler was an American poet whose awards include the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his 1980 collection The Morning of the Poem. He was a central figure in the New York School and is often associated with fellow New York School poets John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, and Barbara Guest.
Life and death
James Marcus Schuyler was the son of Marcus Schuyler (a reporter) and Margaret Daisy Connor Schuyler.
A native of Chicago, he attended Bethany College (West Virginia) from 1941 to 1943. In recollection of his times at Bethany College, Schuyler said in an interview published in the spring of 1992, that he did not excel, "I just played bridge all the time."
Schuyler moved to New York City in the late 1940s where he worked for NBC and first befriended W. H. Auden. In 1947, he moved to Ischia, Italy, where he lived in Auden's rented apartment and worked as his secretary. Between 1947 and 1948, Schuyler attended the University of Florence.
After returning to the United States and settling in New York City, he roomed with John Ashbery and Frank O'Hara.
In April 1991, at age sixty-seven, Schuyler died in Manhattan following a stroke. His ashes were interred at the Little Portion Friary (Episcopal), Mt. Sinai, Long Island, New York.
Schuyler was not known for revealing much about his personal life. It is known that he was gay, was manic depressive, suffered several years of psychoanalysis and withstood many traumatic experiences. One of these includes a "near death experience" in a fire which he caused by smoking in bed.
In a spring 1990 special issue of the Denver Quarterly that was written by Barbara Guest in devotion to Schuyler's work, Guest refers to Schuyler as an "intimist," saying:
...for me Jimmy is the Vuillard of us, he withholds his secret, the secret thing until the moment appears to reveal it. We wait and wait for the name of a flower while we praise the careful cultivation. We wait for someone to speak, And it is Jimmy in an aside.
Inspiration and Style
Schuyler's move to Italy, as Auden's typist, was accompanied by his intention of writing. In 1981 he was said to have recalled "that he found Auden's elaborate formalism 'inhibiting.'" This was likely an influence to his own "conversational style and proselike line."
While living in New York, Schuyler found inspiration in the art world. From 1955-1961, he was a "curator of circulating exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art." He was also an editorial associate and critic for Art News. While working as an editorial associate, Schuyler wrote criticism about a large amount of art. In an interview that was published in spring 2002, he said, "I did learn an awful lot during those years, and then went on in the 60s writing occasional articles about specific artists and their specific strategies. Partly it was to make money, and partly because I wanted to write about painting, about art." His time as an art critic, then, became a major inspiration to his work.
From 1961 to 1973 Schuyler lived with Fairfield Porter and his family in Southampton, Long Island. Porter became an influence for Schuyler as well, and he dedicated his first major collection, Freely Espousing to Anne and Fairfield Porter.
Schuyler is also noted for his distinct ability to take things that are "normal," and bring out their greatness. He takes a look at things that many people may not see, or care to take note of, such as individual raindrops. He evaluates the ordinary and the way they work in relation to other things: "It's the water in the drinking glass the tulips are in./ It's a day like any other."
Schuyler was also responsible for writing Frank O'Hara's elegy, "Buried at Springs". Schuyler recalls Ralph Waldo Emerson's transcendentalism, and uses nature to express himself in the elegy. Schuyler also has several works that are about, or that reference lists.
In his Diary, Schuyler says that he is "more of a reader than a writer," and "everything happens as I write."
Schuyler received the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his 1980 collection The Morning of the Poem. He also coauthored a novel, A Nest of Ninnies, with John Ashbery in 1969. Schuyler also received the Longview Foundation Award in 1961, and the Frank O'Hara Prize for Poetry in 1969 for Freely Espousing.
Schuyler was a Guggenheim Fellow and a fellow of the American Academy of Poets.
His poem The Morning of the Poem is considered to be among the best long poems of the postmodern era.
James Marcus Schuyler's Works:
Alfred and Guinevere (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1958).
Salute (New York: Tiber Press, 1960).
May 24 or So (New York: Tibor de Nagy Editions, 1966).
Freely Espousing (Garden City, N.Y.: Paris Review Editions/Doubleday, 1969; New York: SUN, 1979).
A Nest of Ninnies, by Schuyler and John Ashbery (New York: Dutton, 1969; Manchester, UK: Carcanet, 1987).
The Crystal Lithium (New York: Random House, 1972).
A Sun Cab (New York: Adventures in Poetry, 1972).
Hymn to Life (New York: Random House, 1974).
The Fireproof Floors of Witley Court; English Songs and Dances (Newark & West Burke, Vt.: Janus Press, 1976).
Song (Syracuse, N.Y.: Kermani Press, 1976).
The Home Book: Prose and Poems, 1951-1970, edited by Trevor Winkfield (Calais, Vt.: Z Press, 1977).
What's For Dinner? (Santa Barbara, Cal.: Black Sparrow Press, 1978).
The Morning of the Poem (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1980).
Collabs, by Schuyler and Helena Hughes (New York: Misty Terrace Press, 1980).
Early in '71 (Berkeley, Cal.: The Figures, 1982).
A Few Days(New York: Random House, 1985).
For Joe Brainard (New York: Dia Art Foundation, 1988).
Selected Poems (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1988; Manchester, UK: Carcanet, 1990).
Collected Poems (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1993).
Two Journals: James Schuyler, Darragh Park, by Schuyler and Darragh Park (New York: Tibor de Nagy, 1995).
Diary of James Schuyler (Santa Rosa, Cal.: Black Sparrow Press, 1996).
Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler, 1951-1991, edited by William Corbett (New York: Turtle Point Press, 2004).
Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems, edited by James Metzee and Simon Pettet (New York, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010).
Presenting Jane, Cambridge, Mass., Poet's Theatre, 1952.
Shopping and Waiting: A Dramatic Pause, New York, American Theatre for Poets, 1953.
Unpacking the Black Trunk, by Schuyler and Kenward Elmslie, New York, American Theatre for Poets, 1964.
The Wednesday Club, by Schuyler and Elmslie, New York, American Theatre for Poets, 1964.
Hymn to Life & Other Poems, Watershed Intermedia, 1989.
"Poet and Painter Overture," in The New American Poetry, edited by Donald M. Allen (New York: Evergreen-Grove, 1960), pp. 418-419.
Appearance and Reality: October Third to Thirty-first, 1960, introduction by Schuyler (New York: David Herbert Gallery, 1960).
Robert Dash: November 11-December 5, 1970, introduction by Schuyler (New York: Graham Gallery, 1970).
Penguin Modern Poets 24, edited by John Ashbery (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1973) --includes poems by Schuyler.
Broadway: A Poets and Painters Anthology, edited by Schuyler and Charles North (New York: Swollen Magpie Press, 1979).
Broadway 2: A Poets and Painters Anthology, edited by Schuyler and North (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Hanging Loose Press, 1989).
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James Marcus Schuyler Poems
Books litter the bed, leaves the lawn. It lightly rains. Fall has come: unpatterned, in
beside me in this garden are huge and daisy-like (why not? are not oxeye daisies a chrysanthemum?),
Faure's Second Piano Quartet
On a day like this the rain comes down in fat and random drops among the ailanthus leaves---"the tree of Heaven"---the leaves that on moon-
Past is past, and if one remembers what one meant to do and never did, is not to have thought to do
Closed Gentian Distances
A nothing day full of wild beauty and the timer pings. Roll up the silver off the bay
The mint bed is in bloom: lavender haze day. The grass is more than green and
The morning sky is clouding up and what is that tree, dressed up in white? The fruit tree, French pear. Sulphur-
Hymn To Life
The wind rests its cheek upon the ground and feels the cool damp And lifts its head with twigs and small dead blades of grass
Buried At Springs
There is a hornet in the room and one of us will have to go out the window into the late August midafternoon sun. I
The Crystal Lithium
The smell of snow, stinging in nostrils as the wind lifts it from a beach Eve-shuttering, mixed with sand, or when snow lies under
And is it stamina that unseasonably freaks forth a bluet, a Quaker lady, by
Poem (The Day Gets Slowly Started)
The day gets slowly started. A rap at the bedroom door, bitter coffee, hot cereal, juice the color of sun which
Now And Then
Up from the valley now and then a chain saw rising to a shriek, subsiding to a buzz “Someone” is “cutting in his wood lot” another day shows they are not
a commingling sky a semi-tropic night that cast the blackest shadow of the easily torn, untrembling banana leaf
Closed Gentian Distances
A nothing day full of
wild beauty and the
timer pings. Roll up
the silver off the bay
take down the clouds
sort the spruce and
send to laundry marked,
more starch. Goodbye
golden- and silver-
rod, asters, bayberry
crisp in elegance.
Little fish stream
by, a river in water.