Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Readers might explore the larger ideas in “The Morning of the Poem” through the prism of Schuyler’s homosexuality, which he writes of freely. In this, it is tempting to see Schuyler as an heir of Walt Whitman, whom Schuyler names in the poem and who wrote of homoerotic desire in Leaves of Grass (first published in 1855, revised a number of times) in a manner that nineteenth century readers and even some twentieth century readers found shocking. Whitman was compelled to keep his homosexuality under a veil in ways that Schuyler is not. Thus, Schuyler’s description of his attempt to pick up a man in the grocery store and not obscuring real curiosity about the man’s body (“trying to get a front view of him and see how he was/ Hung and what his face was like”) may be read as a sign of poetic kinship with perhaps American poetry’s most important figure.

Yet for Schuyler’s relative openness about his sexuality, a certain covertness and a certain sadness remain. Schuyler, born in 1923, was fairly entrenched in middle age by the time of the gay liberation movement. Thus Schuyler, with all the importance he places on naming things and people (a love of naming, too, with roots in Whitman), only very rarely names boyfriends or lovers. In this respect, it seems rather sad that Schuyler cannot actually name “the one who mattered most,” presumably a lover. Schuyler echoes the experiences of a generation of gay men whose characters were...

(The entire section is 513 words.)