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James Schuyler Papers
MSS 0078  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Restrictions
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Biography
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: James Schuyler Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0078
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
    Languages: English
    Physical Description: 13.0 Linear feet (29 archives boxes, 4 card file boxes, 1 flat box, 5 map case folders)
    Date (inclusive): 1947-1991
    Abstract: Papers of James Schuyler, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and member of the New York School circle of poets and painters. A New York City resident since 1950, Schuyler moved among prominent artists and writers of the period and worked as an art critic and associate editor for Art News from 1955 to circa 1962, and in the Museum of Modern Art beginning in 1957. He published his first novel, Alfred and Guinevere, in 1958 and continued a distinguished career, publishing twelve books of poetry and two additional novels, including A Nest of Ninnies with John Ashbery. Schuyler's collection of poems entitled The Morning of the Poem won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981. The bulk of the materials date between 1950 and 1970, with a second field of concentration in the late 1980s, and include correspondence with contemporary writers and visual artists, including John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, Joe Brainard, Kenward Elmslie, Barbara Guest, Fairfield Porter, Ron Padgett, and Anne Waldman. Also included are manuscripts and typescripts; Art News materials; notebooks; diaries; miscellaneous subject files; and rare audio recordings.
    Creator: Schuyler, James, Crystal lithium
    Creator: Schuyler, James, Few days
    Creator: Schuyler, James, Freely espousing
    Creator: Schuyler, James, Home book
    Creator: Schuyler, James, Morning of the poem
    Creator: Schuyler, James

    Restrictions

    Original audio recordings are restricted. Researchers may request listening copies be produced in advance.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Papers of James Schuyler, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and member of the New York School circle of poets and painters. A New York City resident since 1950, Schuyler moved among prominent artists and writers of the period and worked as an art critic and associate editor for Art News from 1955 to circa 1962, and in the Museum of Modern Art beginning in 1957. He published his first novel, Alfred and Guinevere, in 1958 and continued a distinguished career, publishing twelve books of poetry and two additional novels, including A Nest of Ninnies with John Ashbery. Schuyler's collection of poems entitled The Morning of the Poem won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981. The bulk of the materials date between 1950 and 1970, with a second field of concentration in the late 1980s, and include correspondence with contemporary writers and visual artists, including John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, Joe Brainard, Kenward Elmslie, Barbara Guest, Fairfield Porter, Ron Padgett, and Anne Waldman. Also included are manuscripts and typescripts; Art News materials; notebooks; diaries; miscellaneous subject files; and rare audio recordings.
    Accessions Processed in 1992
    Contains manuscripts or typescripts for most of Schuyler's works, in addition to abundant correspondence, especially with painters, poets, and writers of the New York School circle.
    Arranged into eight series: 1) ORIGINAL FINDING AID, 2) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 3) CORRESPONDENCE, 4) WRITINGS, 5) WRITINGS OF OTHERS, 6) SUBJECTS, 7) AUDIO TAPE RECORDINGS, and 8) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
    Accession Processed in 1993
    This substantive accession provides a wealth of biographical information, and includes correspondence from Schuyler's lovers and closest friends, initially withheld from the collection.
    Arranged into five series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) WRITINGS, 3) PHOTOGRAPHS, 4) OTHER WRITERS, and 5) MISCELLANEOUS.

    Biography

    Born on November 9, 1923 in Chicago, Illinois, James Marcus Schuyler experienced a peripatetic childhood. His family lived for a time in Downer's Grove, a suburb of Chicago, then Washington, D.C., and later Chevy Chase, Maryland. His parents divorced early in Schuyler's childhood and he remained with his mother and step-father. At the age of twelve, his family moved to Buffalo, New York, and two years later to East Aurora, a suburb outside of Buffalo.
    Schuyler attended Bethany College in West Virginia from 1941 to 1943. There he pursued interests in history, architecture, and literature. During World War II, in 1943, he joined the U.S. Navy. He spent the next two years on a destroyer in the North Atlantic, protecting convoys. He remained in the Navy after the war.
    In 1947, Schuyler moved to the Isle of Ischia in Italy for two years. There he lived in the rented house of W.H. Auden, whom he had met in New York. Schuyler served as Auden's secretary, typing the manuscript for Auden's book Gnomes and Auden's translation of Jean Cocteau's "Les Chevaliers de la Table Ronde." Schuyler also attended the University of Florence at this time, and he began writing poetry. Although he returned to New York briefly, an inheritance allowed him the financial independence to return to Florence in mid-1950.
    Schuyler began writing seriously in the late 1940's, but an important breakthrough in his career came in 1951. As a result of his correspondence with Howard Moss, Moss published Schuyler's poem "Salute", written in the hospital in White Plains, New York. Moss later published three of Schuyler's short stories in the magazine Accent along with a poem entitled "Three Penny Opera" by Frank O'Hara. At a party, Moss introduced Schuyler to Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery, who had been Moss's schoolmates at Harvard.
    Schuyler soon became involved with the so-called New York School of writers and artists. By 1951, he and Frank O'Hara shared an apartment on 49th Street, where they were later joined by John Ashbery after Ashbery's return from France. Schuyler worked for a while at a bookshop on 54th street and later, with the financial assistance of a friend, devoted himself to writing what would become his first novel, Alfred and Guinevere. By 1955 he was working for the magazine Art News as an art critic and associate editor. His colleagues at Art News included John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, Fairfield Porter, and Elaine De Kooning. For this journal Schuyler reviewed exhibitions and wrote articles. By 1957 he was also working for the Museum of Modern Art in the Department of Circulating Exhibitions.
    Schuyler's writing career expanded greatly in the mid-1950s and 1960s. He wrote the libretto for Paul Bowles' recording entitled A Picnic Cantata (1955) and two off-broadway plays, Presenting Jane (1952) and Shopping and Waiting (1953). In 1958 he published his first novel, Alfred and Guinevere, a book about children and their perceptions. Then came two collections of verse, Salute (1960) and May 24th or So (1966).
    Between 1961 and 1973, Schuyler lived with the Fairfield Porter family in Southampton, Long Island, and moved among New York poets and painters, including Fairfield Porter, Kenward Elmslie, Ron Padgett, and Joe Brainard. He collaborated with Kenward Elmslie on the off-broadway play Unpacking the Black Trunk (1965).
    Collaborating with John Ashbery, Schuyler published the novel A Nest of Ninnies in 1969. Begun early in their relationship, the novel is a satire on suburbanites and their lifestyles. This work appeared at the same time as Schuyler's first major collection of poetry Freely Espousing (1969).
    Schuyler's productivity reached a zenith during the 1970s, with the publication of numerous collections of poems including The Crystal Lithium (1972); A Sun Cab (1972); Penguin Modern Poets 24, with Kenneth Koch and Kenward Elmslie (1973); Hymn to Life (1974); Song (1976); The Fireproof Floors of Witley Count: English Songs and Dances (1976); and The Home Book: Prose and Poems 1951-1970 (1977). Schuyler also produced his third novel entitled What's for Dinner, published in 1978. His last work of the decade was The Morning of the Poem (1980), for which he received a Pulitzer Prize.
    Although well-known and successful by the early 1980s, Schuyler turned to a life of reclusion as poor health and financial difficulties hindered his writing. He continues to live in New York City, and has recently published two collections of poetry: A Few Days (1985) and Selected Poems (1988).
    In addition to a Pulitzer Prize for The Morning of the Poem, Schuyler received the Longview Foundation award (1961), the Frank O'Hara Prize (1969), two National Academy for the Arts grants (1969, 1972), an American Academy award (1977), and an Academy of American Poets fellowship (1983).
    "James Schuyler's is a poetry of perception, the recognition of shapes out of the indiscriminate sensory field," wrote George Butterick in Contemporary Poets (1985). "Reading him," wrote Butterick, "there is a sense of focusing field glasses; always the sharper image results...Schuyler is determined to possess the natural world without a lapse into symbolism. Nature is not to be quarreled with, nor confused with human needs. The world is distinguishable among its parts as well as from the observing narrator. He has tried life and it fits; life matches art..."
    Schuyler died on April 12, 1991.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Preferred Citation

    James Schuyler Papers, MSS 0078. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 1989, 1992.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Ashbery, John, 1927- -- Correspondence
    Brainard, Joe, 1942-1994 -- Correspondence
    Button, John -- Correspondence
    Dash, Robert -- Correspondence
    Elmslie, Kenward -- Correspondence
    Freilicher, Jane, 1924-2014 -- Correspondence
    Guest, Barbara -- Correspondence
    Mathews, Harry, 1930- -- Correspondence
    Merrill, James, 1926-1995 -- Correspondence
    O'Hara, Frank, 1926-1966 -- Correspondence
    Padgett, Ron, 1942- -- Correspondence
    Porter, Fairfield -- Correspondence
    Schuyler, James -- Archives
    Waldman, Anne, 1945- -- Correspondence
    Wieners, John, 1934-2002 -- Correspondence
    American poetry--20th century
    Diaries -- 20th century.
    Gay men -- United States
    Gay men -- United States -- Poetry