Thursday, July 8, 2010

Neglectorinos no more!

First and foremost, my hero (and D.S. forebear at Partisan Review), Delmore Schwartz. Audio of him exists, but isn't easy to come by. The Poetry Foundation website now counts him among the Essential American Poets, so... neglectorino no more? Click here for a listen.


I don't believe in writing groups (just speaking for myself, not you!), but when some years ago my talented pals Daniel Bosch and Jenny Barber started attending one at Harvard - presided over by my Poetry Room predecessor, the legendary Stratis Haviaras -well, I went, anyway. It drove me nuts! But an enduring fascination was its most difficult, infuriating, and brilliant longtime member, Paul Hannigan. I've thought about him lots through the years - he died in 2000 - and often pull out his marvellous book, Laughing. Well, some of us burble about our neglectorinos, but other folks do some actual work on their behalf! And so I'm pleased and astonished to find a comprehensive and thoughtful piece on Hannigan by Adam Golaski, "Absent Friends: This is Not Sad; This is Not Funny," over at Open Letters Monthly; check it out here. A sample of Hannigan's poetry:


was Ruskin’s first sermon,
Carlyle preached silence
In forty volumes.

Libraries creek and groan,
The beds where monsters
Are bred. This is the
Bela Bartok Memorial Shopping Center

And this is a whole tongue
Brown and green from the
Dirt and grass it licked and ate.

And here’s a sheep’s head.
Baa. And there, the Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart Barbershop.

People, be good.
Just you try it.
How would you begin?

Speaking of when I was at Harvard... We had (literally) closets full of poetry-related treasures to sort through. One day back in about 2000 or so, I disgorged a crisp-looking red-jacketed book from a pile of books awaiting their curatorial fate: it was Dunstan Thompson's Poems 1950-1974, inscribed "For Stratis Haviaras, with all good wishes from the author's editor and executor, P.T., 14th February 1986." Intrigued, I found that the poems in the book were unusual, haunted, and haunting. It wasn't easy to find out much about the poet. Nevertheless, some time later, I was able to locate his earlier books, which were, to my mind, even more interesting. Recently, Thompson's work was also discovered by D.A. Powell and Kevin Prufer, who have now (though the poet did not want his early work reprinted) thoughtfully selected his poems and gathered essays about him in Dunstan Thompson: On the Life & Work of a Lost American Master, published in the new Pleiades Press "Unsung Masters" series. Ron Silliman calls it "one of the more important books of 2010." Neglectorino no more!

The book's introduction, by the way, narrates a funny and outrageous feud between Thompson and an editor of Poetry. When he was 22, Thompson along with Harry Brown started up a literary magazine called Vice Versa, which was introduced by a proclamation that "this magazine shall be a means to attack the smugness, the sterility, the death-in-life which disgrace the literary journals of America." The magazine called Berryman "quite competent when it comes to writing four and five stress iambic lines," but condemned William Carlos Williams as a "tireless fake" and Louis MacNeice as a "clever fraud." An attack on Poetry referred to it as "very much like Hamlet's father. It is dead, and yet it walks..." And when Poetry's editor responded angrily, Vice Versa wrote up the experience as "like having a dead maiden aunt stand up in her coffin and do a jig. ... Go back and lie down, maiden aunt. You wouldn't want someone to drive a stake through your heart, would you?"

Well, Thompson's first collection, Poems, came out in 1943, and despite the feuding, Poetry praised it (The Nation, however, called Thompson the author of "some very bad poetry... self indulgent and full of private symbols."). The book, along with a second, Lament for the Sleepwalker, remain fascinating, and indeed have been unjustly neglected. Later in life, for reasons Prufer and Powell's book explains, Thompson renounced these, and only wanted the later red-book poems to represent his work; the first two books remain out of print, but if you act quick, you can still obtain Poems 1950-1974; read the Pleiades collection to find out how!

Hardly anybody escapes Clive James's notice, and I should add that Clive wrote about Thompson for Poetry in our summer double-issue last year - unaware of any plans for a new book; read his piece here.


Finally: I have not forgotten about Jonathan Price, another neglectorino about whom I've promised to blog. His book, Everything Must Go, is even harder to find than Thompsons' - however, a selection has just appeared in Christopher Ricks's new anthology, Joining Music with Reason: 34 Poets British and American, Oxford 2004-2009, which includes poems by yours truly... so I'll hold off a bit on that!

Oh, and here's a major neglectorina: Nelly Sachs.


Shelley said...


Adam Golaski said...

Mr. Share,

Thank you so much for noting my essay on Hannigan. I've been doing a bit of work on him since that might interest you, and in turn, I may have a question (or two) for you. If you have a moment, would you contact me at adamgolaski AT gmail DOT com?

Again, many thanks!


Steven Fama said...

Dear Don,

With regard to Schwartz, I hope when you call him hero you're excluding his comparing Laughlin with Hitler, his lousy A Season in Hell, his narrow interests in poetry.

Henry Gould said...

Schwartz is a terrific poet, but would you really characterize him as a neglectorino? I don't think he fits the bill. He was lionized in his day, before his illnesses devoured him. His name & work are cited everywhere in the scholarship.

- Henry Gould, a True & Pitiful Please-Send-Five-Dollars Living Neglectorino

Don Share said...

I take yr point, Henry... but I don't read much scholarship, alas.

Henry Gould said...

More's the pity. Edgar L. Windeen's immaculate study, "The Usage of Stutter-Hyphens in Late 16th-cent. Prosody Among The Archaeological Remains of Early Tribes of Antarctica, 1588-1599" (Univ. of Left Overbie Press, 1947), remains a riveting piece of scholarship, & a central contribution to contemporary notions of versification (in Antarctica). Highly recommended.

Don Share said...

Nope, if I did I'd have to exclude also the likes of Pound, Yeats, Eliot, Lowell, Williams, and dozens more who were flawed, sometmes mentally ill - from Villon the murderer and thief on - poet who were all too human. It's a tired old fake piety that we're to imagine poets as morally superior to others. They can be loved for what they did or tried to do, and forgiven by their readers, who were not their spouces or even acquainted with them, surely. For his best work, for being human with all his sad foibles, Delmore Schwartz remains a hero to me - which doesn't mean he's beyond reproach.

chuck.godwin said...

Thanks to the Essential Poets and the Poetry Foundation for the Delmore poems. Always great to hear good poems read by the person who wrote them. Speaking of necglectorinos and "(literally) closets full of poetry-related treasures to sort through", I understand Harvard owns tapes of Boris Pasternak reading his poems; the last time I inquired about copies, the price was way above my budget. I wonder if you might someday get them post on Squandermania or at the Poetry Foundation.

Don Share said...

Thank you, Chuck.

I don't recall tapes of Pasternak at Harvard (there was a set we sold of Nabokov that the estate asked us to discontinue); but recordings of him do exist. The Poetry Room may have an LP, e.g. the one that the Library of Congress has on the Russian label Discurio (cat. no. L7/001) from 1960. It is very likely that obtaining the legal rights to reproduce this recording would be difficult to obtain. However, visitors to either the Poetry Room or the LOC can stop in for a listen.

Steven Fama said...

Hi Don,

Yes, you are correct regarding personal demons, including things such as Schwartz's mental health conditions and substance abuse. Poets no less than any of us are humans. I shouldn't have gone there with my remark above, and so I retract that part of it (while also explaining that I jawdrop when anyone throws around Hitler comparisons).

The truly grating thing to me is Schwartz's narrow view of poetry: his dismissal of so much that I find so alive in writing.

And I've never read a Schwartz poem I really wanted to, had to, read again. Rexroth's putdown of Schwartz and company -- "complication without complexity" -- may be too pat, and KR's label for the verse -- "English Baroque" -- may be too limiting, but still none of Schwartz's poems have ever lit my fire.

Of course, the verse may be to the side of the respect you have for Schwartz the person. But if you'd care to, please suggest one or a few of his poems that you find necessary and sustaining, and I'll give 'em a read. I'm always interesting in re-visiting my experiences with poetry, to see if they remain the same.

Don Share said...

I don't see him as narrow at all, and he was certainly no less narrow than his contemporaries, e.g., Eliot, the notorious Winters, and countless others. Rexroth, now he was narrow, no??? Though I love him, too!

Schwartz may not be to your taste - some of his greatest hits can be found here:

Contemporary readers may, as Vivek Narayanan has argued, find the "lost" poems unearthed by Robert Phillips to be far more intriguing, free form as they are, so check those out, too.

Delmore had the bitterness and lunacy of a great heart - I think of him as a distant soulmate of Eigner, in fact. Though their poems couldn't be more different, they were each great noticers of night, weather, animals, people walking around and standing in cities, etc. YMMV.

Steven Fama said...

Thanks, Don, for the cites to the poems, will read 'em.

But please do not equate the limits of Rexroth's enthusiasms with someone such as Schwartz's. Rexroth championed Loy. Lamantia. Patchen. Carco. Japanese and Chinese haiku. Etc. Etc. Schwartz did not. Who did he rave for?

Don Share said...

I resist the idea of some kind of bake-off between two poets. Instead, I recommend glancing at his Selected Essays. He was a 1930s-vintage NY Jewish intellectual, whaddya expect?!?

Steven Fama said...

Hi again Don,

Seeing your reference to teh Poetry Foundation Schwartz page (and it's a solid page), reminds me of something.

Is there a particular person at the Foundation I can write to -- I've been wanting to do this for awhile now, although it will be awhile still before I can do so -- regarding the poets who are not included on that massive Poetry Foundation roster of poets?

Don Share said...

The Essential American Poets series was compiled by Donald Hall. If your question is about other audio or webstuff, either e-mail:

mail [at]

... or backchannel me.

Prufer said...

Hi Don--
First, thanks for the nice mention of Doug's and my book on Thompson.

Then, thanks ESPECIALLY for the link to the Delmore Schwartz audio stuff. His poetry was so important to me when I was younger. I wore out copies of SUMMER KNOWLEDGE and LAST & LOST, memorized many of the poems, read and re-read his journals, letters, essays, strange short fiction. But somehow I never happened on any audio of him reading. It's just wonderful to hear it. (And he's still is among my very favorite poets.)

Anyway, this is just to say thanks for the link that, otherwise, I'd never have found.


Don Share said...

Thank you, Kevin - and congrats on this wonderful book as well as your new job!

More Delmore audio is available here:

Alas, the L. of C. spelled his name wrong on the website.

Don Share said...

OH! And the very best, must-hear audio of D.S. is his rendition of "The Ballad of the Children of the Czar," available on the Spoken Arts Treasury of Recorded Poetry CD set. Blows away any poetry reading I've ever heard with the possible exception of Ezra Pound's Harvard recording of "Sestina: Altaforte." Calling PennSound!!!!!

Don Share said...

"We're to suppose that the poet is born perfect - if only he can loosen the neck of his bladder and piss it out.". -- W.C. Williams