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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Lloyd Schwartz at the Marlowe

Poet Lloyd Schwartz presented a verbal tour de force in his PEN New England-sponsored reading Wednesday evening. The event was held at the dining room of the Marlowe Hotel in Cambridge. It was well attended by both students (Schwartz is a professor of creative writing at the University of Massachusetts Boston), as well as notables from Boston’s literary community and others.

Schwartz read from his most recent book, Cairo Traffic. His readings included the mad-cap, slightly-out-of synch-with-the-rest-of-the-universe, “Proverbs from Purgatory”; “I knew this town like the back of my head. /People who live in glass houses are worth two in the bush…” The poet also read from “She Forgets,” a recounting of the imperfect, frail, yet poignant and evocative memories of his mother in her final years. “She,” Schwartz pointed out in the preface to his poem, “is the one who told me about the Holocaust, who taught me moral distinctions, who gave me music and told me jokes…” Schwartz’s mother, as a child, was an immigrant from a village in rural Russia.

Schwartz’s powers of poetic characterization have been well summarized by former three-time Poet Laureate of the United States Robert Pinsky. Pinsky has characterized the characters in Schwartz’s poetry as, “speak(ing) their weaknesses and obsession with a demonstrative natural force…the art and compactness of Schwartz’ technique make a lot of prose fiction look slow and clanky.” The Village Voice in reviewing his work, characterized Schwartz as a “latter day Whitman.”

Schwartz is the author of three books of poetry, These People, Goodnight Gracie, and Cairo Traffic. The U.S. State Department in the early ’90s chose Schwartz as the U.S .representative in a cultural exchange program with Brazil. A 1994 Pulitzer Prize Winner for criticism, Schwartz is also the Classical Music Editor for the Boston Phoenix, having recently penned their recent informative feature article on the performance of Gustav Mahler by the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. He is currently working on a compilation of the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop.

Schwartz, who holds a Ph.D. from Harvard, has had poems published by periodicals including the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and Best American Poetry.

Event sponsor PEN, New England’s premier writing group, consists of much published writers in genres that include fiction and poetry. PEN also offers a student membership for those enrolled in colleges and universities. Student membership carries an invitation to a variety of literary events includeing readings of poetry and fiction and literary discussions chaired by prominent writers. The organization also sponsors projects for the betterment of writing and writers as well as the general public. These include a Prison Writing Project, literacy programs for children, and a watchdog group concerned about literary censorship.

Schwartz’s reading at the Marlowe provided evidence of poet David Lehman’s assertion that Lloyd Schwartz is “a true original – no one else’s poems sound like his.”

The event was held in a lushly decorated anteroom of the Marlowe Hotel’s dining room. The elegance of the venue, the diverse audience and courtesy wine bar as well as the verity of Schwartz’s poetry helped to create an event that was a celebration of life as well as of poetry.