PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Subha Mukherji Dying and Living with De la Mare Carl Phillips Fall Colors and other poems Alex Wylie The Bureaucratic Sublime: on the secret joys of contemporary poetry Marilyn Hacker Montpeyroux Sonnets David Herman Memories of Raymond Williams
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This article is taken from PN Review 145, Volume 28 Number 5, May - June 2002.

Palpable Fact: James Schuyler and Immediacy Peter Campion

Since his death in 1991, James Schuyler's friends have done a remarkable service by publishing his last poems, his diaries, his art reviews, and his long out-of-print novel, Alfred and Guinevere. Black Sparrow Press will soon print a book of the poet's selected letters, edited by William Corbett. But even with such support, Schuyler's achievement remains largely ignored. The reason has to do, I think, with this poet's great virtue: his ability to defy classification. Though we speak of Schuyler as one of 'The New York School', his poems never hew to any set aesthetic.

The very phrase, 'The New York School' may be deceptive. But if poems by John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, Barbara Guest, and Douglas Crase reveal separate styles and separate underlying assumptions about language and the world, when we read their work we certainly notice distinct similarities. We hear a mode of address which is both intimate and evasive. We hear the tonal register shift: philosophical statement, for instance, soon gives way to cartoonish banter. The quickened syntax seems for moments like the exhilarating rush that occurs in Whitman. But then we watch as the accumulation fractures. These poems cannot maintain the unity of mind and matter which Whitman (as well as his champion, Emerson) sought in American poetry. In fact, these poems suggest that mind and matter do not join, but rather collide, as in Ashbery's lines about what is required of a poet: 'The extreme austerity of an almost empty ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image