Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Delmore and Lou

James & Alma Agee with Delmore Schwartz (1939)
Source of above photo.

Zachary Braiterman draws attention to Lou Reed's days at Syracuse University, where Reed took classes with the poet Delmore Schwartz (on whom Saul Bellow based Humboldt's Gift). A classmate, James Gorney, says Schwartz sometimes went drinking with Reed and him.

Reed loved poetry, but I didn't think he was really a poet until I read his 'O Delmore how I miss you: dreams from his teacher', a testimonial to Schwartz' influence. It was published as the Preface in New Directions' re-issue of Schwartz's In Dreams Begin Responsibilities. Here's an audio file of Reed reading from the eponymous story of the collection (the title of which was drawn from an epigraph in a volume of Yeats' poems). The story was first published in the Partisan Review in 1937. Here are Lee Smith's reflections on Reed's ode to his mentor.

Late in his life, in 2007, Reed created a scholarship at Syracuse University. He called it the Lou Reed/Delmore Schwartz Scholarship.

Reed's song 'My House' was partly about Schwartz. According to that link, Reed said, 'Delmore Schwartz was my teacher and friend. He was the smartest, funniest, saddest person I'd ever met. He had a large scar on his forehead he said he got dueling with Nietzsche. I was Dedalus to his Bloom.' (I can't find the original source for that quotation.) An earlier song by the Velvet Underground, 'European Son', was dedicated to Schwartz.

Menachem Feuer has a post on the relation between Schwartz and Reed.

Schwartz studied philosophy in New York with Sidney Hook and proceeded from there to do graduate work in philosophy at Harvard. He was drawn to Harvard because ... well, because it was Harvard but also because of Alfred North Whitehead. While he didn't complete his doctorate, Schwartz received high grades at Harvard and retained a lasting admiration for Whitehead. Indeed, he prefaced one of his poems, 'Heavy Bear...', with a quotation of Whitehead.

Another of Schwartz' philosophical associates was William Barrett, who worked with Schwartz at the Partisan Review.

Hear Schwartz reading his poem 'Swift'.

No comments: