The Bluet by James Schuyler

Re-reading Steven Waling’s review of Frank O’Hara in The North the other day reminded me of James Schuyler today. Not as famous as his friend but just as vital, I think the poem below is one of his loveliest.

Late one night sometime around 1986 I remember John Peel announcing before playing The Go-Betweens’ ‘Bachelor Kisses’: ‘Sometimes, ladies and gentlemen, you just need to step back and listen to this.’ That is how I feel about ‘The Bluet’ by James Schuyler. It is transparent, apparently artless, and as good in its way as Seamus Heaney. Simply amazing poetry. You can listen to it on the Poetry Foundation site.



The Bluet


And is it stamina
that unseasonably freaks
forth a bluet, a
Quaker lady, by
the lake? So small,
a drop of sky that
splashed and held,
four-petaled, creamy
in its throat. The woods
around were brown,
the air crisp as a
Carr’s table water
biscuit and smelt of
cider. There were frost
apples on the trees in
the field below the house.
The pond was still, then
broke into a ripple.
The hills, the leaves that
have not yet fallen
are deep and oriental
rug colors. Brown leaves
in the woods set off
gray trunks of trees.
But that bluet was
the focus of it all: last
spring, next spring, what
does it matter? Unexpected
as a tear when someone
reads a poem you wrote
for him: “It’s this line
here.” That bluet breaks
me up, tiny spring flower
late, late in dour October.
James Schuyler, “The Bluet” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1988 by James Schuyler. Reprinted with the permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. 
Source: Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1988)

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