An emergency, reading that James Schuyler “was born in 1933” — so says the jacket note on The Crystal Lithium. That would make him a mere six years older than I, seven years younger than Frank O'Hara, one year older than Ted Berrigan, and so on — a fact behind his accomplishment which my vanity calls unacceptable. But the jacket for Hymn to Life says, “born in 1923.” So there. (Though where vanity rears its horny head there can be no real relief).
A first-time reader of James Schuyler’s poetry could have written my notes for this essay:
Clarity Loves a list Letter / diary Right now, right here Weather and Light Addresses, exact addresses Names of friends
Yet I spent thirteen years editing Schuyler’s letters, years during which I thought of him at least once a day, and at every reading I have given in the past decade or more I read at least one of his poems. Really, I ought to be able to come up with a few new observations about his exceptional poetry.
In this essay, I will try to account for the importance of “the day” in Schuyler’s poetry, but I will come at my subject in a slightly roundabout way. I claim Schuyler as my precedent. In a poem published soon after Schuyler’s death, Clark Coolidge notes that “[i]f Jimmy starts with one thing it’s always the / one in the middle.” So it makes a certain sense for me to begin in the middle of the middle, with Schuyler’s journal entry for August 15, 1970: