What Striking Advice Did Famed Poet Delmore Schwartz Give a Young Lou Reed?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Lou Reed was given some striking early advice from the legendary American poet and author, Delmore Schwartz.

Delmore Schwartz burst onto the literary scene as a young man, with his collection of short stories that was named after his most famous short story, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities,” in 1938, when he was just 25 years old.

Schwartz definitely fit into the “Wonder Boy” definition – that is, the creative person who had their greatest success at a young age and then spend the rest of their lives trying to recapture that glory.

In 1959, Schwartz became the youngest person ever to win the Bollingen Prize, mostly for his collection of poems, Summer Knowledge: New and Selected Poems.

Schwartz had a profound impact upon the confessional poets of the 1950s, primarily John Berryman, who dedicated a book of poetry to Schwartz.

Saul Bellow later wrote a great book, Humboldt’s Gift, based on Schwartz’s life – how he began with such great promise and that promise haunt him for the rest of his life.

Schwartz was an extremely heavy drinker, which he used to self-medicate. Ultimately, he became basically a hermit, living in the Hotel Marlon in New York City. He was so isolated that he was dead for two days before he was discovered (he was only 53 years old).

Schwartz taught at a number of colleges during his life, and one of his most famous students (at Syracuse) was a young man named Lou Reed.
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Did Richard Wilbur Write the Lyrics to “Glitter and Be Gay”?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to opera and operettas and whether they are true or false.

OPERA URBAN LEGEND: Richard Wilbur, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for Poetry and the second United States Poet Laureate, actually wrote the lyrics to a number of songs from Candide, including “Glitter and Be Gay.”

Richard Wilbur (born in New York City in 1921) is one of the very best poets of the second half of the 20th Century, and even in the 21st Century he has continued his same, steady delivery of excellent poetry.

Wilbur, like most of the men in his generation, fought in World War Two. Wilbur served in the Army during the war and saw quite a bit of action in Europe from 1943 until the end of the war. His war experiences clearly influenced his poetry dramatically, as much of his most celebrated early work concerned itself with putting order to a chaotic post-War world.

Wilbur’s work, while beautiful, is written in a traditional style, similar to the work of Robert Frost. During the second half of the 20th Century, however, a more non-formalist style became the more celebrated style of poetry among critics, like the confessional poets Slyvia Plath, Robert Lowell and John Berryman (all peers of Wilbur, but all three killed themselves decades ago while Wilbur is still alive today).

Because of this, Wilbur sometimes almost seems to be overlooked in poetry history, as his work does not leap out as much stylistically, but he has significant amounts of accolades. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1957 and 1989 and he was named the second Poet Laureate of the United States in 1987 (the position existed for many years before 1987, it just wasn’t CALLED that until 1986).

However, one facet of his career that really has been overlooked is he actually did song lyrics for an operetta!!
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