James Schuyler Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

James Schuyler (SKI-lur) wrote (or cowrote) three novels. Beginning with Alfred and Guinevere (1958), the novels deal with the upper middle class and show a good ear for the comic trivialities of ordinary conversation, whether of children and adolescents, sophisticated young adults, or middle-aged couples. They also demonstrate, with their precision in naming, Schuyler’s connoisseur’s eye for furniture, design, and objects used or displayed in the household. The satiric A Nest of Ninnies (1969), cowritten with John Ashbery, lacks the plot and fully developed characters of What’s for Dinner? (1978), his most substantial novel, giving rich evidence of true command of the form as it traces an alcoholic’s recovery in a mental hospital, her husband’s simultaneous affair with a widowed friend, and the progress of several other patients on short-term stays in the hospital.

Three of Schuyler’s plays have been produced: the one-act pieces Presenting Jane (pr. 1952) and Shopping and Waiting (pb. 1953), and Unpacking the Black Trunk, another collaboration with a fellow poet (Kenward Elmslie), produced off-Broadway in 1965. He wrote the libretto (“mostly collage from newspapers,” he says) for A Picnic Cantata: For Four Women’s Voices, Two Pianos, and Percussion (pr. 1953), for which the writer Paul Bowles composed the music; it was recorded by Columbia Records.

Like fellow New York poets Ashbery and Frank O’Hara, Schuyler also wrote art criticism—particularly for Art News, where he served for a time as associate editor.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

James Schuyler won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1981 for The Morning of the Poem. His other awards include the Frank O’Hara Prize from Poetry in 1969, the Bernard F. Connors Prize for Poetry from the Paris Review in 1985, a Whiting Writers’ Award in 1985, and a Lambda Literary Award in 1993. He received grants and fellowships, including a National Endowment for the Arts grant and an Academy of American Poets Fellowship.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Auslander, Philip. The New York School Poets as Playwrights. New York: Peter Lang, 1989. Although the focus of this volume is on plays, the chapter on Schuyler also examines his poetry, including his link to the New York School.

Corbett, William, and Geoffrey Young, eds. That Various Field for James Schuyler. Great Barrington, Mass.: The Figures, 1991. A good overview.

Schuyler, James. The Diary of James Schuyler. Edited by Nathan Kernan. Santa Rosa, Calif.: Black Sparrow Press, 1997. Schuyler’s diary is a devastating account of his decline into mental illness and a narrative of his achievements. Includes bibliographical references.

Vinson, James, ed. Contemporary Poets. 3d ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1980. The entry on Schuyler, by Michael Andre, identifies his artistic leanings and his prolific writings. Calls Salute representative of his poems, which are “sensitive and perceptive.” Notes that much of Schuyler’s poetry describes what he sees and what he loves—and that is not New York.

Ward, Geoff. Statutes of Liberty: The New York School of Poets. 2d ed. New York: Palgrave, 2001. An account of the key figures of the New York School including Schuyler. Ward provides updated material on the group and its influence on postmodern poetics. Includes bibliographical references and index.