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Lloyd Schwartz

1941–

Lloyd Schwartz was born on November 29, 1941 in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from Queens College of the City University of New York in 1962 and earned his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1976.

Schwartz's most recent book of poetry is Little Kisses (University of Chicago Press, 2017), which was preceded by Cairo Traffic (University of Chicago Press, 2000), Goodnight, Gracie (University of Chicago Press, 1992), and These People (Wesleyan University Press, 1981). He is also editor of two volumes of collected works by Elizabeth Bishop: Elizabeth Bishop: Poems, Prose and Letters (Library of America, 2008), which he co-edited with Robert Giroux, and Prose (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011). Schwartz's most recent book, Music In—and On—the Air (PFP, 2013), is a collection of his music reviews that appeared on NPR's Fresh Air.  

About his work, the poet Richard Howard has said: "The poet has extended his reach as well as his grasp, and we are the richer for it, through no less ravaged: these people (and these poems) are devastated by life, of which they offer us, unnervingly, the flagrant shards."

His poems, articles, and reviews have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, The New Republic, The Paris Review, and The Best American Poetry series. In 1994, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.

Schwartz has taught at Boston State College, Queens College, and Harvard University, and is currently Frederick S. Troy Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. He is also the senior editor of classical music for New York Arts and a regular commentator on NPR's Fresh Air. In 2019, he was named the Poet Laureate of Somerville, Massachusetts, a two-year appointment. 

By This Poet

5

A True Poem

I'm working on a poem that's so true, I can't show it to anyone.

I could never show it to anyone.

Because it says exactly what I think, and what I think scares me.

Sometimes it pleases me.

Usually it brings misery.

And this poem says exactly what I think.

What I think of myself, what I think of my friends, what I think about my lover.

Exactly.

Parts of it might please them, some of it might scare them.

Some of it might bring misery.

And I don't want to hurt them, I don't want to hurt them.

I don't want to hurt anybody.

I want everyone to love me.

Still, I keep working on it.

Why?

Why do I keep working on it? 

Nobody will ever see it. 

Nobody will ever see it.

I keep working on it even though I can never show it to anybody.

I keep working on it even though someone might get hurt.

Leaves

                        1 

Every October it becomes important, no, necessary
to see the leaves turning, to be surrounded
by leaves turning; it's not just the symbolism,
to confront in the death of the year your death,
one blazing farewell appearance, though the irony 
isn't lost on you that nature is most seductive
when it's about to die, flaunting the dazzle of its 
incipient exit, an ending that at least so far 
the effects of human progress (pollution, acid rain)
have not yet frightened you enough to make you believe
is real; that is, you know this ending is a deception
because of course nature is always renewing itself—
        the trees don't die, they just pretend,
        go out in style, and return in style: a new style.





                        2 

Is it deliberate how far they make you go
especially if you live in the city to get far 
enough away from home to see not just trees 
but only trees? The boring highways, roadsigns, high 
speeds, 10-axle trucks passing you as if they were 
in an even greater hurry than you to look at leaves:
so you drive in terror for literal hours and it looks 
like rain, or snow, but it's probably just clouds
(too cloudy to see any color?) and you wonder, 
given the poverty of your memory, which road had the 
most color last year, but it doesn't matter since 
you're probably too late anyway, or too early—
        whichever road you take will be the wrong one
        and you've probably come all this way for nothing.






                        3 

You'll be driving along depressed when suddenly
a cloud will move and the sun will muscle through
and ignite the hills. It may not last. Probably
won't last. But for a moment the whole world
comes to. Wakes up. Proves it lives. It lives—
red, yellow, orange, brown, russet, ocher, vermilion,
gold. Flame and rust. Flame and rust, the permutations
of burning. You're on fire. Your eyes are on fire.
It won't last, you don't want it to last. You 
can't stand any more. But you don't want it to stop. 
It's what you've come for. It's what you'll
come back for. It won't stay with you, but you'll 
        remember that it felt like nothing else you've felt
        or something you've felt that also didn't last.

Six Words


yes	
no
maybe
sometimes
always
never

Never?
Yes.
Always?
No.
Sometimes?
Maybe—

maybe 
never
sometimes.
Yes—
no
always:

always
maybe.
No—
never
yes.
Sometimes,

sometimes
(always)
yes.
Maybe
never . . .
No,	

no—
sometimes.
Never.
Always?
Maybe.
Yes—

yes no
maybe sometimes
always never.