Kalstone, born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, was the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship and studied at the University of Cambridge. He taught at Harvard University starting in 1959 and was a professor of English at Rutgers University from 1967 until his death.
He lectured on and wrote about 20th century poets including Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. His friends included the poet James Merrill and the writer Edmund White, who is said to have portrayed Kalstone as the character Joshua in the novel The Farewell Symphony.
Sidney's Poetry: Contexts and Interpretations (1965)
Five Temperaments: Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, James Merrill, Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery (1977)
Becoming a Poet: Elizabeth Bishop with Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell (1989)
Just before I left, Richard introduced me to a person in New York who would become my best friend: David Kalstone. He was living not far from Howard Mosse in a sublet. He was a professor (he'd written a book on Sir Philip Sidney) at Rutgers, but I gathered he was in a state of change - wintering in New York City, summering in Venice, being outfitted with contact lenses and more up-to-date clothes, even writing about contemporary poets such as Bishop and James Merrill.
None of that struck me at the time. What impressed me right away was how subtle and gentle and observant he was, though he was almost legally blind. He had a sweet, wise smile, eyes that blinked into the indistinct void around him, hands that made wonderful rounded gestures. Richard Howard treated him a bit as if he were a distinguished but dim cousin, but I felt right away that he could be a... playmate. Although Richard liked all of us to sit up straight and present to the world our best face and to say right off our cleverest remarks and to speak of our serious reading or our life-transforming experiences (the ballet, Angkor Wat, the Sistine Chapel), David would never jump through that hoop. He was completely obliging, but a slightly goofy sense of humor played over everything he touched. He didn't write as much as his friends expected, or so I gathered, but I guessed that was partly because he spent a lot of time at friendship. He was a generous, amused man and he liked me a lot, I could see, maybe because in a sense we were both newcomers. Although he was ten years older than I, he'd devoted less time than I to being a New Yorker, which in those days was something like a religious vocation, full of obvious penances and rarefied rewards --Edmund White in City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s
David Kalstone looking at Chris, 1985, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl/oneITEM.asp?pid=2032659&iid=1121493&srchtype=)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)
Becoming a Poet: Elizabeth Bishop with Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell by David Kalstone
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: University of Michigan Press (January 29, 2001)
Amazon: Becoming a Poet: Elizabeth Bishop with Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell
Becoming a Poet traces the evolution of Elizabeth Bishop's poetic career through her friendships with other poets, notably Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell. Published in 1989 following critic David Kalstone's death, with the help of a number of his friends and colleagues, it was greeted with uniformly enthusiastic praise. Hailed at that time as "one of the most sensitive appreciations of Elizabeth Bishop's genius ever composed" and "a first-rate piece of criticism" and "a masterpiece of understanding about friendship and about poetry," it has been largely unavailable in recent years.
City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s by Edmund White
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition (September 28, 2010)
Amazon: City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s
Groundbreaking literary icon Edmund White reflects on his remarkable life in New York in an era when the city was economically devastated but incandescent with art and ideas. White struggles to gain literary recognition, witnesses the rise of the gay rights movement, and has memorable encounters with luminaries from Elizabeth Bishop to William Burroughs, Susan Sontag to Jasper Johns. Recording his ambitions and desires, recalling lovers and literary heroes, White displays the wit, candor, and generosity that have defined his unique voice over the decades.
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
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