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This article is taken from PN Review 226, Volume 42 Number 2, November - December 2015.

The Heavy Bear: Delmore Schwartz’s Life Versus His Poetry John Ashbery

The following text was delivered as a Lecture at the sixty-seventh general meeting of the English Literary Society of Japan, 21 May 1995.

When I was first asked to give a lecture before the English Literary Society of Japan, I had the idea of discussing American poetry of the 1930s. There were two reasons for this. The first was that the period isn’t widely known, even in America, and that much fine poetry between, let us say, the death of Hart Crane in 1933 and the publication of Robert Lowell’s first major collection, Lord Weary’s Castle, in 1946, has been simply forgotten. My second reason was that the poetry in question was precisely that which I began reading when I first decided I was going to be a poet, and it inevitably helped to shape the poetry I was then writing; I assumed, rightly or wrongly, that those who invited me here and were coming to hear me lecture might be interested in my formation as a poet. However, I soon realized that the subject was too inconveniently broad for such an occasion. As I thought of the first modern poets I had enjoyed reading, I kept thinking of more and more names and poems, most of which would be inaccessible to Japanese readers, as indeed they are to Americans (except in specialized library collections).

The thought then occurred to me to devote the lecture to Delmore Schwartz. Though his reputation is sadly diminished from what it was at his beginnings in the late 1930s, it has been kept ...


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