restricted access Life, Work, Failure: Delmore Schwartz

Since his death in 1966, Delmore Schwartz has come to be seen as a figure of failure, the first and most readily destroyed of the second American ‘lost generation’. This article argues that, on the contrary, important sections of Schwartz’s work succeed in creating a ‘poetry of failure’ which mimes the collapse of the attempt to conjure beauty into existence with words. That these honest and attentive poetic accounts of unremitting difficulty have been overlooked by critics preoccupied with ‘strength’ or ‘acclaim’ only serves to call these categories of critical judgement into question.