Delmore Schwartz  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Delmore Schwartz (December 8, 1913July 11, 1966) was an American poet from Brooklyn, New York. His first published work was the short story "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities," which was published in 1937 in the Partisan Review. This and other short stories and poems were collected and released in his first book, under the same name (1938). (The story was later republished in the collection In Dreams Begin Responsibilities and Other Stories (1978) (ISBN 0-8112-0680-7).) This first work was well received, and made him a well-known figure in New York intellectual circles. There he became known as a democratic Socialist and an associate of Irving Howe.

Over the next three decades he published numerous stories, poems, and plays, and edited the Partisan Review from 1943 to 1955. In 1959, he became the youngest recipient of the Bollingen Prize, awarded for a collection of poetry he released that year, Summer Knowledge: New and Selected Poems. Included in the collection is "Calmly We Walk Through This April's Day."

However, his later life was marred by alcoholism and finally insanity; this downward spiral following his initial success formed the basis for Saul Bellow's novel Humboldt's Gift (1975.

In 1962, Schwartz began teaching Creative Writing at Syracuse University. One of his students was future singer-songwriter Lou Reed, who dedicated several songs to his mentor (most notably "European Son"). Schwartz reportedly told Reed at one point, "You can write—and if you ever sell out and there's a Heaven from which you can be haunted, I'll haunt you," and Reed never forgot..Template:Fact He attended Schwartz's funeral in 1966, and years later in his song "My House," Reed tells a story of a ghost in his new home who spells out D-E-L-M-O-R-E on an Ouija board, and who doesn't spook him, but inspires him instead.

The expression "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities" is derived from the Irish poet William Butler Yeats' 1914 volume of poems Responsibilities, which uses a variation of the phrase as an epigram. Yeats attributes the saying merely to an "Old Play." Variations of this saying show up in unexpected places (e.g. the movie Deep Cover [1]).

With verse that is by turns tenaciously Freudian and sentimentally platonic, Schwartz struggled to define his own idiom; his early, edgy, uncertain and sometimes droll verse may have more vitality than his later more abstract work. Many of these later poems seem governed by a devotion to the rhetoric and/or music other writers, especially to T.S. Eliot, who loomed as an intellectual parent. But in sharp moments throughout his career, Schwartz shows he had a unique voice, as when he says, "I am a book I neither wrote nor read,/ A comic tragic play in which new masquerades/ Astonishing as guns crackle like raids . . ." .

Schwartz was interred at Cedar Park Cemetery, in Emerson, New Jersey. <ref name=nyt1>Template:Cite news</ref>

Published works

  • In Dreams Begin Responsibilities (1938), a collection of short stories and poems
  • Shenandoah (1941), a verse play
  • Genesis (1943), a prose poem about the growth of a human being
  • World Is a Wedding (1948), a collection of short stories
  • Vaudeville for a Princess and Other Poems (1950)
  • Summer Knowledge: New and Selected Poems (1959)
  • Successful Love and Other Stories (1961)
  • In Dreams Begin Responsibilities and Other Stories (1978), a short story collection

Published posthumously:

  • Selected Essays (1970, ed. Donald Dike, David Zucker)
  • Letters of Delmore Schwartz (1984, ed. Robert Phillips)
  • The Ego Is Always at the Wheel: Bagatelles (1986, ed. Robert Phillips), a collection of humorously whimsical short essays
  • Last and Lost Poems (1989, ed. New Directions Publishing)


  • The last episode of the critically acclaimed TV show "My So-Called Life" was named "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities."
  • In the U2 song "Acrobat (song)", Bono inserts "In Dreams Begin Responsibilites" as a lyric.
  • Lou Reed wrote the song "My House" on his 1982 album The Blue Mask about Delmore Schwartz, who mentored Reed in college.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Delmore Schwartz" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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