mercredi 27 mai 2009

Delmore Schwartz died in the Chelsea Hotel

Delmore Schwartz, whose name is somehow synonymous with failure to live up to early promise, died here

Delmore Schwartz: in dreams begin responsibilities

Could there be a more intriguing title for a short story than this: In Dreams Begin Responsibilities. It is the title of the first short story that Brooklyn-born Delmore Schwartz ever published, to critical claim. I once read a very good biography of Schwartz and will update this post with a reference to it if possible. It has always haunted me that he died, alone and alcoholic, in the famous Chelsea Hotel on 23rd between 7th and 8th. He taught briefly at Syracuse University, where one of his students was Lou Reed.

Below, one of my favorite Schwartz poems. For me, the subject is the anxiety of influence and also what makes New York City so great. We walked by a branch of the New York Public Library on Saturday, where I took these unremarkable photos. Unremarkable, except that they reminded me for some reason of Delmore Schwartz, which reminded me of the Chelsea Hotel, which we found on our long walk home from South Central Park to Greenwich Village via Chelsea. And which brings me to this poem.

The Greatest Thing In North America by Delmore Schwartz
This is the greatest thing in North America:
Europe is the greatest thing in North America!
High in the sky, dark in the heart, and always there
Among the natural powers of sunlight and of air,
Changing, second by second, shifting and changing the
Bring fresh rain to the stone of the library steps.

Under the famous names upon the pediment:
Thales, Aristotle,
Cicero, Augustine, Scotus, Galileo,
Joseph, Odysseus, Hamlet, Columbus and Spinoza,
Anna Karenina, Alyosha Karamazov, Sherlock Holmes.

And the last three also live upon the silver screen
Three blocks away, in moonlight's artificial day,
A double bill in the darkened palace whirled,
And the veritable glittering light of the turning world's
Burning mind and blazing imagination, showing, day by
And week after week the desires of the heart and mind
Of all the living souls yearning everywhere
From Canada to Panama, from Brooklyn to Paraguay,
From Cuba to Vancouver, every afternoon and every night.