James Schuyler, ‘Past is Past’Imagine this poem as a self-contained moment — like pretending time is still when you gaze at an old photo. “Salute” freezes you for several lines and then pushes you right out of the memory . You realize the past is gone. You cherish it and you move on.If you flip through the works of James Schuyler, you may get the sense that you are reading an artist’s diary. The lines jump around and the poems have different degrees of length and power. “Salute” is the first poem in an post-humously arranged anthology of the lifelong New Yorker’s work.
Much of Schuyler’s work is reflective. There are themes of life and death, the passage of time, and many times he mixes pastoral images with city settings. He writes candidly about pain, loss and dealing with mental illness.
This poem frequently pops into my mind, especially when I reminisce. I stop to smell the flowers and remind myself to move on with a literary “salute.” I think that James Schuyler (considered an original “New York School poet”) is highly underrated and not read enough. Luckily, I was introduced to his work in a college class dedicated to New York City’s poets.
If you have some time, he is worth a read (I have this anthology, with an intro by poet John Ashbery). If you have a lot more time, I’d suggest reading a bit about New York School poets and Schuyler’s life. It should only add layers of history and emotion to his words.
What did you think of “Salute”? What poem would you have featured? Your thoughts, suggestions and comments are welcome!