Two Unpublished Poems by James Schuyler discovered.

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Two Unpublished Poems by James Schuyler discovered.

Found: two (seemingly) previously unpublished James Schuyler poems. Or uncollected—neither is included in either Schuyler’s Collected Poems (1993) or Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems (2010). Found whilst cyber-rummaging through the Fairfield Porter papers at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art.

Unheard screams

from the frozen lawn
the forsythia and lilac shrub tangle
who lies buried here? Only
Tuxie, a cat.

From the ice
boys play ice hockey on
on the partly salt, spring fed pond
a scream
no a rending once
is heard.

Dearly beloved
we are gathered here
in the parlor playing gin rummy
and the drawing game.
See, here are the magic matches
and from the witch and little
girl come unheard screams.

On a day like today
blue gray cold is pierced
by what I can’t hear
buried away
under frozen lawns
where we loiter
and will join you later.

Typed signature: “James Schuyler.” Dated: “Jan. 21, 1962.” Syntax mimicking a percept continually revised, off balance, uncertain, repeating (“ice . . . ice,” “on / on”) to relocate. So, too, the momentary dignity of the funeral lingo (“Dearly beloved”) topple off its perch at “gin rummy”—though the giddy turn turns shortly to the vaguely macabre. “Blue gray cold is pierced” is Schuyler being Schuyler-precise and -deft, that ability to swiftly decipher and sum up the day’s “swift indecipherables”* in a line or two. What I love: the ending’s “where we loiter / and will join you later”—addressed to the “unheard” dead, with “loiter” sounding so wonderfully / ominously close to “later” as to seem to be the putting on of a brave face (“See, here are the magic matches . . .”) against its meaning “soon.” Two:

Sooner or Later

Soon it will be evening.
My room is hot.

The morning was glorious.
My room was cool.

A cardinal sits on a rose bush.
Redder than the rose.

A young man reads on the lawn.
His drink is cool.

Beside him a boxer
pants in the sun.

The sun going west
shines on my face.

Yesterday it rained.
“A good day to work.”

The day passes and
evening arrives.

Evenings pass
and mornings come.

All I pray for is
a good night’s sleep

and glorious days.

Typed initials: “JS.” With date beneath: “8/18/73.” The short declaratory statements attempt to stake out moments of surety (and betray a sparse tenuousness, a meager hold)—something accomplished nigh entirely by rhythm, the chopped off lines, abrupt, like nails hammered into the day’s dilute tenuity . . . (At the end, the mere stretching of a sentence out beyond the couplet causes a momentary easing, a relief—a chord played after nervous plucking. Another way to say it: after a disjunct series of opposing states (“My room is hot. / . . . / My room was cool” or the rather audaciously pared down and blandly officious “The day passes and / evening arrives. // Evenings pass / and mornings come”), the momentary burgeoning of desire for something so combinedly complex (“sleep” and “glorious days”) provides a release (out of an “unfroward tetchiness” hardly suspected, though sensed).

1 thought on “Two Unpublished Poems by James Schuyler discovered.

  1. Never heard of the guy till now. Not bad stuff. The 2nd poem spoke to me more than the 1st, for whatever reason, though the 1st surely jumps out to me. i always like reading the interpretations or critiques, as well. Whoever wrote these is pretty scholarly!

    Awesome news piece!

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