Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Tired And Unhappy, You Think Of Houses
Delmore Schwartz

Tired and unhappy, you think of houses
Soft-carpeted and warm in the December evening,
While snow's white pieces fall past the window,
And the orange firelight leaps.
A young girl sings
That song of Gluck where Orpheus pleads with Death;
Her elders watch, nodding their happiness
To see time fresh again in her self-conscious eyes:
The servants bring in the coffee, the children go to bed,
Elder and younger yawn and go to bed,
The coals fade and glow, rose and ashen,
It is time to shake yourself! and break this
Banal dream, and turn your head
Where the underground is charged, where the weight
Of the lean building is seen,
Where close in the subway rush, anonymous
In the audience, well-dressed or mean,
So many surround you, ringing your fate,
Caught in an anger exact as a machine!

you really can't beat the french for crazy poets but we've had our share of them too. delmore is right up there w/the best(or worst)of them. he kind of kicked off a particularly crazy generation of american poets that included lowell & jarrell & roetke & berryman. bellow wrote a big novel that revolved around his friendship w/delmore. berryman dedicated his best volume of poetry to him. he was as big a deal for a short period of time as any intellectual this side of mailer. it all came early & fast & was over just as quickly. of course, becoming insane didn't help & neither did the drinking.

there's no real way to understand the phenomena that was delmore unless you read through the poetry or check out his collection of short stories. the poetry can be a bit abstract but almost every poem will have a line or two that surprises or gives pause, like "anger as exact as a machine."

he died in a cold-water flea-bag hotel in nyc at the age of 53. he wasn't identified for two days.

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