lloyd-schwartz

To My Oldest Friend, Whose Silence Is Like A Death

By Lloyd Schwartz

In today’s paper, a story about our high school drama
teacher evicted from his Carnegie Hall rooftop apartment

made me ache to call you — the only person I know
who’d still remember his talent, his good looks, his self-

absorption. We’d laugh (at what haven’t we laughed?), then
not laugh, wondering what became of him. But I can’t call,

because I don’t know what became of you.

— After sixty years, with no explanation, you’re suddenly
not there. Gone. Phone disconnected. I was afraid

you might be dead. But you’re not dead.

Read the rest of the poem here

I’m working on a poem that’s so true, I can’t show it to anyone.
I could never show it to anyone.
Because it says exactly what I think, and what I think scares me.
Sometimes it pleases me.
Usually it brings misery.
And this poem says exactly what I think.
What I think of myself, what I think of my friends, what I think about my lover.
Exactly.
Parts of it might please them, some of it might scare them.
Some of it might bring misery.
And I don’t want to hurt them, I don’t want to hurt them.
I don’t want to hurt anybody.
I want everyone to love me.
Still, I keep working on it.
Why?
Why do I keep working on it?
Nobody will ever see it.
Nobody will ever see it.
I keep working on it even though I can never show it to anybody.
I keep working on it even though someone might get hurt.

—Lloyd Schwartz, “A True Poem” in Cairo Traffic. University Of Chicago Press, 2000

Hollywood is often at its best when it’s making fun of itself, and few movies are funnier or more fun than Singin’ in the Rain, the broadly satirical musical comedy about the transition from silent movies to sound. Gene Kelly, who co-directed the film with Stanley Donen, stars as the stuntman turned matinee idol who falls in love with adorable Debbie Reynolds. He even gets to parody his own swashbuckling in MGM’s Technicolor Three Musketeers.

— Lloyd Schwartz review: 60 Years Later, Still ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ : NPR)

How’ll I learn my lines if there isn’t any script?

How’ll I find my shoes if I can’t find my glasses?

How’ll I get to a hundred if I can’t get past eleven?

How’ll I get to first base if you don’t open the ballpark?

How’ll I get to Paris unless I review the situation?

How’ll I keep the wolf from the car?

How’ll I starve the fever if I’ve got to feed the cold?

How’ll I burst Joy’s grape?

How’ll we make our sun stand still?

How’ll we stop without a farmhouse neat?

Who’ll play with the mice when the cat’s away?

Who’ll put out the light, and then put out the light?

What’ll I do with just a photograph to tell my troubles to?

What’ll I do?

How’ll I pass through the universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war?

How’ll I eat shit without having visions?

How’ll I find the party?

How’ll I get home?

How’ll we end the war in Spain?

How’ll I get to heaven?

Lloyd Schwartz, “HOWL”

The Promise of Poetry

Six Words 

yes	
no
maybe
sometimes
always
never

Never?
Yes.
Always?
No.
Sometimes?
Maybe—

maybe 
never
sometimes.
Yes—
no
always:

always
maybe.
No—
never
yes.
Sometimes,

sometimes
(always)
yes.
Maybe
never . . .
No,	

no—
sometimes.
Never.
Always?
Maybe.
Yes—

yes no
maybe sometimes
always never.

-Lloyd Schwartz
10

10 Favorite Atmospheric Photos - Dressing Room

1) Brianne Kelly Morgan
2) Davis Gaines and Rebecca Luker
3) Rebecca Luker and Kevin Gray
4) Irasema Terrazas
5) Luzia Nistler
6) Kim So Hyun and Kwang Ho Hong
7) Magdalene Minnaar and Jonathan Roxmouth
8) Elisabeth Berg & Mikael Samuelsson
9) Mathias Edenborn and Valerie Link
10) Andre Schwartz, Robin Botha and Anthony Downing

New York‘s Museum of Modern Art is currently hosting the first major Willem de Kooning retrospective. Critic Lloyd Schwartz says the exhibit traces the development of de Kooning’s entire career, along with the little detours he took along the way.

Woman I (1950-52) is one of the works featured in de Kooning: A Retrospective. The exhibit is on display at the Museum of Modern Art through Jan. 9, 2012.

To My Oldest Friend, Whose Silence Is Like a Death

In today’s paper, a story about our high school drama
teacher evicted from his Carnegie Hall rooftop apartment

made me ache to call you—the only person I know
who’d still remember his talent, his good looks, his self-

absorption. We’d laugh (at what haven’t we laughed?), then
not laugh, wondering what became of him. But I can’t call,

because I don’t know what became of you.

—After sixty years, with no explanation, you’re suddenly
not there. Gone. Phone disconnected. I was afraid

you might be dead. But you’re not dead.

You’ve left, your landlord says. He has your new unlisted
number but insists on “respecting your privacy.” I located

your oldest son, who refuses to tell me anything except that
you’re alive and not ill. Your ex-wife ignores my letters.

What’s happened? Are you in trouble? Something
you’ve done? Something I’ve done?

We used to tell each other everything: our automatic
reference points to childhood pranks, secret codes,

and sexual experiments. How many decades since we started
singing each other “Happy Birthday” every birthday?

(Your last uninhibited rendition is still on my voice mail.)

How often have we exchanged our mutual gratitude—the easy
unthinking kindnesses of long friendship.

This mysterious silence isn’t kind. It keeps me
up at night, bewildered, at some “stage “of grief.

Would your actual death be easier to bear?

I crave your laugh, your quirky takes, your latest
comedy of errors. “When one’s friends hate each other,”

Pound wrote near the end of his life, “how can there be
peace in the world?” We loved each other. Why why why

am I dead to you?

Our birthdays are looming. The older I get, the less and less
I understand this world,

and the people in it.

Lloyd Schwartz

To My Oldest Friend, Whose Silence Is Like A Death
In today’s paper, a story about our high school drama
teacher evicted from his Carnegie Hall rooftop apartment 

made me ache to call you—the only person I know 
who’d still remember his talent, his good looks, his self-

absorption. We’d laugh (at what haven’t we laughed?), then 
not laugh, wondering what became of him. But I can’t call, 

because I don’t know what became of you.

—After sixty years, with no explanation, you’re suddenly
not there. Gone. Phone disconnected. I was afraid

you might be dead. But you’re not dead. 

You’ve left, your landlord says. He has your new unlisted 
number but insists on “respecting your privacy.” I located 

your oldest son, who refuses to tell me anything except that 
you’re alive and not ill. Your ex-wife ignores my letters.

What’s happened? Are you in trouble? Something 
you’ve done? Something I’ve done? 

We used to tell each other everything: our automatic 
reference points to childhood pranks, secret codes, 

and sexual experiments. How many decades since we started 
singing each other “Happy Birthday” every birthday? 

(Your last uninhibited rendition is still on my voice mail.)

How often have we exchanged our mutual gratitude—the easy
unthinking kindnesses of long friendship. 

This mysterious silence isn’t kind. It keeps me 
up at night, bewildered, at some “stage “of grief. 

Would your actual death be easier to bear? 

I crave your laugh, your quirky takes, your latest
comedy of errors. “When one’s friends hate each other,”

Pound wrote near the end of his life, “how can there be
peace in the world?” We loved each other. Why why why 

am I dead to you? 

Our birthdays are looming. The older I get, the less and less 
I understand this world, 

and the people in it. 


Lloyd Schwartz

Revisiting Mary Martin’s Lighter-Than-Air Exuberance In NBC’s 1955 ‘Peter Pan’ Live

Lloyd Schwartz reviews the Blu-ray release of NBC’s 1955 Peter Pan production starring Mary Martin:

“I urge anyone who sat through even part of the deadly Peter Pan Live! on NBC television last year to see the original telecast of that musical that VAI has just issued on Blu-ray. What a difference to watch brilliant actors who actually seem to love what they’re doing, under the direction of someone who knows how to make a show come to life. Mary Martin was one of the great Broadway stars. She made her Broadway debut singing Cole Porter’s naughty “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” back in 1938 and created another sensation as the army nurse Nellie Forbush in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s megahit South Pacific, singing “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair” while taking a shower onstage. Later, the role of Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music was written for her. . She was a kind of sexy tomboy, slight of build, with a piquant voice that carried to the back of the balcony. She was adorable—and so sincere, how could you not believe every syllable?”

"To My Oldest Friend, Whose Silence Is Like a Death," Lloyd Schwartz

In today’s paper, a story about our high school drama
teacher evicted from his Carnegie Hall rooftop apartment
 
made me ache to call you–the only person I know
who’d still remember his talent, his good looks, his self-
 
absorption. We’d laugh (at what haven’t we laughed?), then
not laugh, wondering what became of him. But I can’t call,
 
because I don’t know what became of you.
 
–After sixty years, with no explanation, you’re suddenly
not there. Gone. Phone disconnected. I was afraid
 
you might be dead. But you’re not dead.
 
You’ve left, your landlord says. He has your new unlisted
number but insists on “respecting your privacy.” I located
 
your oldest son, who refuses to tell me anything except that
you’re alive and not ill. Your ex-wife ignores my letters.
 
What’s happened? Are you in trouble? Something
you’ve done? Something I’ve done?
 
We used to tell each other everything: our automatic
reference points to childhood pranks, secret codes,
 
and sexual experiments. How many decades since we started
singing each other “Happy Birthday” every birthday?
 
(Your last uninhibited rendition is still on my voice mail.)
 
How often have we exchanged our mutual gratitude–the easy
unthinking kindnesses of long friendship.
 
This mysterious silence isn’t kind. It keeps me
up at night, bewildered, at some “stage” of grief.
 
Would your actual death be easier to bear?
 
I crave your laugh, your quirky takes, your latest
comedy of errors. “When one’s friends hate each other,”
 
Pound wrote near the end of his life, “how can there be
peace in the world?” We loved each other. Why why why
 
am I dead to you?
 
Our birthdays are looming. The older I get, the less and less
I understand this world,
 
and the people in it.

“Every October it becomes important, no, necessary to see the leaves turning, to be surrounded by leaves turning…You’ll be driving along depressed when suddenly a cloud will move and the sun will muscle through and ignite the hills. It may not last. Probably won’t last. But for a moment the whole world comes to. Wakes up. Proves it lives. It lives–red, yellow, orange, brown, russet, ocher, vermillion, gold. Flame and rust. Flame and rust, the permutations of burning. You’re on fire. Your eyes are on fire.

It won’t last, you don’t want it to last. You can’t stand any more. But you don’t want it to stop. It’s what you’ve come for. It’s what you’ll come back for. It won’t stay with you, but you’ll remember that it felt like nothing else you’ve felt or something you’ve felt that also didn’t last.”

- Lloyd Schwartz

Lloyd Schwartz writes about love and loss associated with the Dutch painter Vermeer:

Some years ago, I wrote a poem  called “Why I Love Vermeer,” which ends “I’ve never lived in a city without a Vermeer.” I could say that until 1990, when Vermeer’s exquisite painting The Concert was one of the masterpieces stolen from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It’s still missing. The French conceptual artist Sophie Calle, who loved that Vermeer, put together a show called Last Seen, a series of photographs of the empty frames of the stolen paintings, combined with comments on the paintings by people who worked at the museum. It’s a haunting and elegant show, though seeing this exhibit, which is now on view at the Gardner, then walking through the rooms with the empty frames still in place, made me feel more melancholy and hopeless than ever about this enormous loss.

image from “Last Seen” from the Boston Globe

A note from Fresh Air contributor Lloyd Schwartz:

After my Fresh Air piece on Vermeer and the exhibit of paintings from The Hague visiting New York’s Frick Collection (December 5), several people asked me about my choice of the title Officer and Smiling Girl for the Vermeer painting usually called Officer and Laughing Girl—the title it has at home at the Frick. Vermeer’s titles were mainly not his own and over the centuries have never been written in stone. The Frick’s title derived from a 1696 sale in Amsterdam where it was simply listed, without a title, as “a soldier with a laughing girl, very beautiful.” In a series of poems I wrote about Vermeer, I myself used the more traditional title. In some older Vermeer books, the painting is called A Soldier with a Laughing Girl. But neither of these titles seem truly accurate. In his landmark Study of Vermeer, art historian (and Rilke translator) Edward Snow refers to the painting as Soldier and Young Girl Smiling, which is a far more descriptive of what the painting looks like. The expression on the young girl’s face is so poignant precisely because it’s so ambiguous—her smile, tender and loving, is also a little forced, even fearful. That soldier looming opposite her, silhouetted with his back to the viewer, is clearly about to go out into the world—there’s an open window next to him and a map on the wall behind the girl. She seems (at least to me) to not to want him to leave, maybe even desperate for him to stay. Definitely not laughing.

Practically every scholar writing about Vermeer gives one of the Frick’s other Vermeers—the one the Frick calls Mistress and Maid—a different title. One of the great Vermeers in the National Gallery in Washington used to be called Woman Weighing Pearls, then Woman Weighing Gold, and is now, probably most correctly, just Woman with a Balance. And for years, before the book and movie inspired by the iconic Vermeer from The Hague that’s the centerpiece of the current loan exhibit, that painting was not called Girl with the Pearl Earring but, blandly, Head of a Young Girl. Vermeer himself, evidently, didn’t seem to care what his paintings were called.

image: Officer and a Laughing Girl by Johannes Vermeer

The legendary German conductor Otto Klemperer was one of the most profound musicians of the 20th Century. In the 1960s, nearing the end of his career, he overcame many physical handicaps to create an astonishing body of recorded classical music. EMI has just reissued a broad spectrum of his recordings, including a boxed set of one of the composers he’s most associated with: Gustav Mahler. Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz has a review.

Fresh Air contributor Lloyd Schwartz shares a poem he wrote about the 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer:

Why I Love Vermeer

1. Power.

When I moved to my new house, I thought I’d lost all my Vermeer books. I was frantic for days. How could I have lost track of them “even for the least division of an hour"? Even the most inadequate reproduction (and they’re all inadequate) has the power to move me. Lately, though, merely looking at them hasn’t seemed enough. But what more can one do? What more do they want? What are they going to ask of me now?

2. Personal reasons.

The women in the paintings—opening a window, reading a letter, pouring milk, holding a glass of wine—remind me, in their eyes, their smiles (giving, inward), their “centeredness,” remind me of certain people I love; especially (this gets more complicated), especially my mother.

3. Profundity.

Their network of contradictions (clarity and mystery; reticence and bravura; heroism and humility—not necessarily a contradiction) suggests an intelligence, an inner life, beyond the other “little" Dutch masters—and equal, it seems to me, in its way, to the nakedness and tragedy of Rembrandt. “Rembrandt ist Beethoven,” I heard an old woman say to herself in the Rijksmuseum, “Vermeer ist Mozart.” Why must one choose either over the other?

4. Rarity.

So few survive (thirty-six, fewer than the number of Shakespeare plays; and one attribution has recently been called into question). Each one—taken in, loved for itself—calls into mind each of the others.

5. Inaccessibility.

The summer of the great retrospective in Europe (including all the Vermeers still in private collections), I had to go. Obsessed, I kept traveling to see as many more as I could. In Germany, I lied to get into a closed museum. At what wouldn’t I stop?

6. Accessibility.

I grew up in New York, which has more Vermeers (eight) than any other city in the world. Any other country (there are only seven in Holland). I’ve never lived in a city without a Vermeer.

Lloyd Schwartz

From Goodnight, Gracie (University of Chicago Press)

Lloyd Schwartz on Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute:

It’s a good young cast, except for Amy Carson in the role of Pamina. Carson makes a very pretty, almost pre-Raphaelite heroine. But this is one of the most radiantly beautiful soprano roles ever written, and Carson’s singing voice is pinched and so often off pitch, it’s painful. On the other hand, the best-known singer in the film, the celebrated bass René Pape, a famous Sarastro, sings this role magnificently, with the profoundest dignity and warmth.