11-09-1923

James Schuyler

Poet JAMES SCHUYLER, born, (d: 1991); A native of Chicago, Schuyler moved to New York City in the late 1940s where he worked for NBC and first befriended W.H. Auden. In 1947, he moved to Ischia, Italy, where he lived in the rented Auden’s apartment and worked as Auden’s secretary. Between 1947 and 1948, Schuyler attended the University of Florence.

After returning to the United States and settling in New York City, he roomed with John Ashberry and Frank O’Hara. From 1955-1961, he was a “curator of circulating exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art.” He was also an editorial associate and critic for Art News. Modern art was a major influence in his writing as well as the writings of Whitman.

Reading an account of how a visit by Walt Whitman inspired Logan Pearsall Smith to literary ambition in his Unforgotten Years, Schuyler said “I looked up from my book, and the whole landscape seemed to shimmer.” The personal epic of Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and the vital force of landscape become major concerns of Schuyler’s mature poetry.

Like Whitman, Schuyler was not known for revealing much about his personal life. He was Gay, and because he was manic-depressive, suffered several years of psychoanalysis and had a life that seemed to be riddled with traumatic experiences. One of these includes a ”near death experience” in a fire which was caused by him smoking in bed. Schuyler received the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for his 1980 collection The Morning of the Poem. He also coauthored a novel, A Nest of Ninnies, with John Ashberry in 1969. Shuyler also received the Longview Foundation Award in 1961, and the Frank O’Hara Prize for Poetry in 1969 for Freely Espousing.

Schuyler was a Guggenheim Fellow and a fellow of the American Academy of Poets. His poem The Morning of the Poem is considered to be among the best long poems of the postmodern era. His papers are maintained at the University of Connecticut.