01-07-1921

[l to r] W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman

CHESTER KALLMAN, American poet, born (d: 1975); Born in Brooklyn. He received his B.A. at Brooklyn College and his M.A. at the University of Michigan. He published three collections of poems, Storm at Castelfranco (1956), Absent and Present (1963), and The Sense of Occasion (1971). He lived most of his adult life in New York, spending his summers in Italy from 1948 through 1957 and in Austria from 1958 through 1974. He moved his winter home from New York to Athens in 1963.

Together with his lifelong friend (and former lover) W.H. Auden, Kallman wrote the libretto for Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress (1951). They also collaborated on two librettos for Henze, Elegy for Young Lovers (1961) and The Bassarids (1966), and on the libretto of Love’s Labour’s Lost (based on Shakespeare’s play) for Nicolas Nabokov (1973). They also wrote a libretto “Delia, or, A Masque of Night” (1953), intended for Stravinsky, but never set to music. They were commissioned to write the lyrics for Man of La Mancha, but Kallman did no work on the project, and the producers decided against using Auden’s contributions (who, incidentally, insisted that at the end of the story, Quixote renounce his vision…and then we would have never had The Impossible Dream.)

When Isherwood and Auden came to America in the late ‘30s, Kallman and fellow Brooklyn College student Harold Norse – both young, blond and handsome – attended an Isherwood/Auden reading to flirt with the celebrated writers.

Only Isherwood flirted back; Auden was near-sighted. When, two days later, 18-year-old Kallman showed up at Auden’s apartment, Auden, apprised of the young hunks by Isherwood, answered the door and exclaimed “But it’s the wrong blond!” Isherwood, it seems, had particularly hankered after Norse. Chester Kallman entered Auden’s apartment and, in a manner of speaking, didn’t leave until the great poet’s death thirty-four years later.