james schuyler, man after my own heart

I read James Schuyler's poetry a couple of years ago in my "Post-Modern American Poetry" class. I can't say that I was impressed. I recall liking "Korean Mums" but didn't find anything particularly beautiful or striking in the work. Now that I've read from Schuyler's Selected Poems, I've fallen in love with his ability to create an image through control over sound and form. Schuyler has become one of my favorite poets.

I chose to memorize "Poem (This beauty that I see) partly because it was 75 words and partly because I'd been flipping through Selected Poems and found some beautiful lines and images. As I memorized the poem, I found that Schuyler has a firm grasp of language (as a poet should, I suppose.) There was something really striking, though, in his work. I memorized the poem as I usually do--memorizing one line, then another, repeating them together, memorizing the third line, repeating it with the first two--and found that Schuyler was using a lot of alliteration. Why hadn't I realized that the first time I read the poem? Sure, I'd noticed the withys, wind, would, etc at the beginning, but now I noticed many "s" sounds as well.

Ah, I thought. This poem reads really quickly. That's why I didn't notice. And all the lines were about the same length, creating some interesting enjambment. Now I've really gotten myself into intense poetry reading mode. I wondered what effect the enjambment had on me, and the poem itself. I realized that the enjambment, in combination with the alliteration, helped to encapsulate me into the poem. Many of the lines formed incomplete thoughts/images. I had to be propelled, somehow, to the next line in order to hang on to Schuyler. This propulsion enhanced my perception of the imagery--I no longer just wanted to read the images, but feel the images. The words were so beautiful, the craft so specific, that Schuyler wrapped me in his words. It was comforting, and one of the more pleasant poetry-reading experiences I've had.

If only he wasn't gay.

I kid, of course.

Still, there is something romantic in Schuyler's imagery. John Ashbery wrote in the introduction for Selected Poems that

[James Schuyler's] poems are seldom "about" anything in the way poetry traditionally is; they are the anything. To reread him is to live, as though life were an experience one had just forgotten and been newly awakened to.


Though I've been trained as a reader to find meaning in poetry, somehow I instinctively knew not to search for Schuyler's hidden demons or subtleties. For Schuyler, description is enough. Just seeing something for what it is has poetic merit. We need not exhaust ourselves searching for the meaning of it all. We should just "sit back and enjoy the ride," as they say.

Who are "they" anyway? They deserve a punch in the face, methinks.

just because i love it...

Poem
This beauty that I see
--the sun going down
scours the entangled
and lightly henna
withys and the wind
whips them as it
would ship a cloud--
is passing so swiftly
into night. A moon,
full and flat, and stars
a freight train passing
passing it is the sea
and not a train. This
beauty that collects
dry leaves in pools
and pockets and goes
freezingly, just able
still to swiftly flow
it goes, it goes.

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