David Schubert (1913-46). A brilliant, truncated poet, the heir of Hart Crane, Wallace Stevens, and Wordsworth, among others. He was much admired by Frank O'Hara and James Wright, and is still admired by (and an important influence on) John Ashbery. His sole book of poetry, Initial A, was not published in his lifetime despite Schubert's ability to get individual poems published in some of the most prestigious magazines of his day, and despite some very important friendships with quite a few admired poets and critics.
Schubert suffered in his lifetime many psychologically debilitating hardships including persistent poverty, the suicide of his mother (a young Schubert was the one to find her body), practical abandonment by his father, and, for a short while, homelessness. Nonetheless, he excelled in school, receiving a full scholarship to attend Amherst College where Robert Frost taught at the time. However, Schubert's manic writing habits, coupled with the heavy loads of schoolwork at Amherst, and perhaps a sense of inferiority, took their toll, and even though Frost did his best to hold on to him and help him out, Schubert was forced to leave Amherst after little more than a year.
The later years of Schubert's short life were mixed with joy and grief. He took pleasure in his marriage, his friendships, and his work, but suffered over his inability to publish a book, provide for his family, and to make sense of the trauma he had sustained over the years. Eventually, in a particularly terrible fit, Schubert destroyed the manuscript of a finished novel he had undertaken to write, threatened his beloved wife with a pair of scissors, and fled into a winter night, to be found days later delirious and totally unstable. With the help of some literary friends, Schubert was placed in a top-notch mental institute, where he spent around (I think) two years. Following his release, Schubert had, within a few days, relapsed, and had left the apartment where he was staying, temporarily, with his wife. After being found again, Schubert was taken to a hospital, but soon succumbed to a lung ailment, assumed to be severe bronchitis, at the age of 32.
David Schubert's poetry is, by turns: funny, taut, nervous, melancholy, witty, jumpy, highly lyrical, and rich in puns and wordplay. He is often complex to the point of obscurity, but deeply personal and autobiographical in a way that some critics have claimed marks the beginning of Confessional poetry. But, having been so young and unpolished, I must admit that some of Initial A (finally published by Macmillan in 1961) is good but shruggable, although the best poems are legitimate masterpieces in my eyes.
Last edited by JTolle; 22-Jun-2011 at 20:38.
"...in the spring there was clouds"