Lloyd Schwartz was born in Brooklyn, New York, graduated from Queens College, New York in 1962 and earned his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1976.
Schwartz's books of poetry include Cairo Traffic (University of Chicago Press, 2000) and the chapbook Greatest Hits 1973-2000 (Pudding House Press, 2003) , which were preceded by Goodnight, Gracie (1992) and These People (1981). He edited the collection Elizabeth Bishop and Her Art (University of Michigan Press, 1983). In 1990, he adapted These People for the Poets' Theatre in a production called These People: Voices for the Stage, which he also directed.
Schwartz was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1994 for his work with The Boston Phoenix.
Schwartz served as co-editor of an edition of the collected works of Elizabeth Bishop for the Library of America, entitled Elizabeth Bishop: Poems, Prose, and Letters (2008).
His poems, articles, and reviews have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, The New Republic, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Agni, The Pushcart Prize, and The Best American Poetry. Between 1968 and 1982 he worked as an actor in the Harvard Dramatic Club, HARPO, The Pooh Players, Poly-Arts, and the NPR series The Spider's Web, playing such roles as Scrooge (A Christmas Carol), the Mock Turtle (Alice in Wonderland), Froth (Measure for Measure), Trofimov (The Cherry Orchard), Zeal-of-the-Land Busy (Bartholomew Fair), The Worm (In the Jungle of Cities), Krapp (Krapp's Last Tape), the Disciple John (Jesus: A Passion Play for Cambridge), and played a leading role in Russell Merritt's short satirical film The Drones Must Die. He also directed two operas, Ravel's L'Heure Espagnol (Boston Summer Opera Theatre) and Stravinsky's Mavra (New England Chamber Opera Group), 1972.
Lloyd Schwartz and Ralph Hamilton, 1988, by Robert Giard
Lloyd Schwartz is an American poet who is Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He is also Classical Music Editor of The Boston Phoenix and commentator for NPR's Fresh Air. His partner was artist Ralph Hamilton: "My lovable, impossible friend of more than 30 years, the artist Ralph Hamilton, died on February 19, of complications from diabetes. He was one of Boston's most original and searching painters and had been doing some of his most ambitious and moving work."
Lloyd Schwartz, 1988, by Robert Giard
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)
Lloyd Schwartz's farewell to his partner, Ralph Hamilton: My lovable, impossible friend of more than 30 years, the artist Ralph Hamilton, died on February 19, of complications from diabetes. He was only 59. It’s a very sad loss. He was one of Boston’s most original and searching painters and had been doing some of his most ambitious and moving work.
He was a local guy. He grew up in Newton Upper Falls and lived in Somerville. His degree was from the Massachusetts College of Art. His studio was at the Boston Center for the Arts, where he served at least one term as artist representative to the board of trustees, fighting on behalf of the other resident artists. He refused to teach but was a generous mentor to numerous fellow artists. His paintings are in the collections of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the Addison Gallery, the Rose Art Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He received major awards from the Pollack-Krasner and Ingram Merrill Foundations.
Part Anglo-Scottish and part French-Canadian, he was very quiet, moody, but had a dark sense of humor — his irreverence amused his friends and horrified his acquaintances. He hated the sun, loved stormy weather; his favorite color was gray. That dark spirit was reflected in the images he painted. Catastrophes — burning buildings, crashing vehicles, hurricanes, murder victims, executions — are among his central subjects. Also — and odd for someone with no interest whatsoever in athletics — sports. He made baseball, basketball, and soccer players (players he may never have heard of but who are instantly recognizable) look like dancers. Yet his sports figures are also battered: a boxer with his face smashed in, a high jumper leaping over the bar, a skater in a deep backbend, Mickey Mantle swinging a bat, Roger Clemens throwing a ball are his contemporary equivalents of Renaissance crucifixions. His paintings are unflinching, and they’re mysteriously beautiful.
He also painted remarkable portraits: nearly 200 of them (two of them are at the Met), most the same size and shape (30 inches square). Intense close-ups of personal friends and international celebrities: movie and media stars (Michael Caine, Michael York, Claire Bloom, Bea Arthur, Jean Stapleton, Jane Alexander, Terry Gross, Jack “Jimmy Olsen” Larson); artists (Grace Hartigan, Michael Mazur, Fay Chandler, Elsa Dorfman); poets (Seamus Heaney, James Merrill, Richard Howard, Elizabeth Bishop); many musicians (Pierre Boulez, Klaus Tennstedt, Seiji Ozawa, Elliott Carter, Virgil Thomson, John Harbison, Phyllis Curtin, Sarah Caldwell, Craig Smith, Benjamin Zander, Jane Struss, the legendary pianist Annie Fischer — in 1987, Symphony Hall hosted a show of these); even critics (Richard Dyer, Christine Temin, Ellen Pfeiffer). And dancers (Violette Verdy, Suzanne Farrell, Mark Morris). He had recently completed portraits of all but three of the Mark Morris dancers and was about to paint Baryshnikov and the Nicholas Brothers. His life-size, six-foot-high diptych of Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine in the pas de deux from Balanchine’s Don Quixote is the most ravishingly poignant dance painting I’ve ever seen.
He was an avid reader, especially of Roman history, and poetry. (John Donne was a distant ancestor.) Some of his early paintings included words (“AWAY,” “GET WELL”), but he had little patience with words (or any art) that didn’t speak to him. Six of his Fourteen People, a series of life-size standing figures, are poets (among them Robert Pinsky, Frank Bidart, Gail Mazur, Joyce Peseroff, and Margo Lockwood). He did the covers for poetry books (including my own three), the Elizabeth Bishop bibliography, and a number of issues of Ploughshares. His eloquent portrait of Ella Fitzgerald was on the cover of Parnassus.
In 1985, David Bonetti, now the art critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, wrote in these pages:
At the end of each century Boston has had a portrait painter of great interpretive gifts — Copley in the 18th, Sargent in the 19th, and now, I’d argue, Hamilton in the 20th. . . . The subjects of Copley and Sargent were the aristocracy of their times — merchants and their wives. Hamilton’s subjects are fellow artists and Intellectuals, a reflection of the change in values our society has undergone. Like his predecessors, though, he is creating one of those invaluable records that tell what a historical period was about.
These portraits certainly aren’t conventional. Most of them are based on his selection of one of the 20 or 30 bad snapshots he insisted on taking himself. (His other paintings are based mainly on published photographs.) One portrait is so close up, it looks more like a landscape than a face. When his subject saw the finished painting, she asked, “Where’s my hair?” Bea Arthur seemed delighted to have her portrait done until Ralph practically stuck his camera up against her nose to photograph her. “What the hell is this,” she bellowed, “an ad for facial hair?” He got only four photos before she stormed away, but one of them worked. He always said that these faces were in “conversational distance.” The painting was finished when the faces looked as if they were speaking to him.
He had a unique technique. He’d map out his images on the canvas, paper, or masonite like a topography, then “fill in the blanks,” he would say, “like paint by numbers.” Then the real work would begin. While the paint was still wet, he’d start to brush it away. He’d turn the painting on its side, then upside down, and brush and brush. Suddenly, a three-dimensional image would emerge — and not just three dimensions. This brushwork suggests animation, movement, passage through time. The images seem to come alive as you’re looking at them. His painting of Jonathan Swift’s death mask is disturbing in its very vitality. But scariest of all are his devastating and uncompromising self-portraits. “Every painting is a self-portrait,” he said years ago. His self-portraits, over more than three decades, are among his most powerful paintings. Did he see himself in his recent image of a solitary ice-shagged buffalo?
For years, he was a “non-compliant diabetic.” He thought the disease would get to him no matter how much effort he put into controlling it. Finally he really worked at keeping it under control. But his body was already damaged. He easily survived open heart surgery, driving a week after the quadruple bypass. But kidney failure was imminent. He said he would rather die than go on dialysis. He was always death-haunted. “I feel death all the time,” he said to me when he was still in his 20s. But an artist friend told me this story: they were having dinner a few weeks ago and Ralph ordered a glass of wine. At the end of the dinner, he said, “I didn’t really want any wine. But now that it’s almost gone, I wish it would last forever.”
Goodnight, Gracie (Phoenix Poets) by Lloyd Schwartz
Paperback: 114 pages
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (May 1, 1992)
Amazon: Goodnight, Gracie
With Gracie Allen as their uninhibited Muse, Lloyd Schwartz's poems strike an unusual balance between comedy and pathos. His exuberant interest in the social world is qualified by a poignant sense of time and mortality, and of the interior, inaccessible zones of life.
"Like a latter-day Whitman, an addict of contraries or its victim, Schwartz sets out to understand that network in as many ways as his imagination allows. Once you get the hang of what Schwartz is tuning into, you can't stop tuning into it yourself. . . .A master of timing."—Robyn Selman, Voice Literary Supplement
"[Schwartz's] poems seem to think in musical structures; he hears those evanescent snatches of conversation that compose our emotional lives, recognizes their fluid importance, and organizes them for us."—Stephen Tapscott, Boston Phoenix.
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
More Real Life Romances at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance
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