Schultz, Philip 1945-
SCHULTZ, Philip 1945-
PERSONAL: Born January 6, 1945, in Rochester, NY; son of Samuel B. and Lillian (Bernstein) Schultz; married Monica Banks (a sculptor), January, 1995; children: Eli, August. Education: Attended University of Louisville, 1963-65; San Francisco State University, B.A., 1967; University of Iowa, M.F.A., 1971. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish.
ADDRESSES: Home—88 Osborne Lane, East Hampton, New York, NY 11937. Office—The Writers Studio, 78 Charles St. 2R, New York, NY 11937. Agent— Georges Borchardt, 136 East 57th St., New York, NY 10014. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: San Francisco Department of Social Service, San Francisco, CA, clerk-typist, 1969-70; taught poetry in elementary schools in Michigan, 1971-72, Massachusetts, 1974-75, and New York, 1977-80; Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo, MI, writer-inresidence, 1971-72; Newton College of the Sacred Heart, Newton, MA, lecturer in poetry, 1973-74; University of Massachusetts, Boston, lecturer in creative writing, 1973-75; New York University, New York, NY, lecturer in creative writing, 1978-88, founder and director of the creative writing program, 1984-88; founder, The Writers Studio, New York, NY, 1988—.
MEMBER: International PEN, Poetry Society of America, Writers Guild of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: Poetry award, Kansas City Star, 1971; Discovery-Nation Poetry award, 1976; Creative Arts Public Service fellow, New York Council on the Arts, 1976, 1980; National Book Award nomination, and American Academy of Arts and Letters award, both 1979, both for Like Wings; National Endowment for the Arts, fellow, 1980-81; Fulbright grant, 1983; Lamont Poetry Selection, Academy of American Poets, 1984, for Deep within the Ravine; fellowship, New York Foundation for the Arts, 1985; Academy of American Poets award; Levinson Prize, Poetry magazine, 1996.
Like Wings, Viking (New York, NY), 1978.
Deep within the Ravine, Viking (New York, NY), 1984.
My Guardian Angel Stein (chapbook), 1986.
The Holy Worm of Praise, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2002.
Poems have appeared in the New Yorker, Partisan Review, New Republic, and the Paris Review; and in anthologies, including New American Poets of the 90's, Godine, 1991, and 100 Years of American Poetry, 1996. Contributor of short stories to literary journals.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Living in the Past (book-length poem), for Harcourt; First Person Persona.
SIDELIGHTS: Philip Schultz's personal obsessions, his passions, his past, are the self-proclaimed stuff of his poems, a program that has been an extraordinarily successful one for him. He has received several prestigious awards and grants for his poetry, beginning with his first volume, Like Wings, which was nominated for a National Book Award and received an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Beginning his career as an itinerant lecturer in poetry, Schultz was later ensconced at New York University, where he founded a new creative writing program in 1984. Leaving teaching in 1988, he established a private school, The Writers Studio, based upon the principles he developed while at NYU. A second verse collection, Deep within the Ravine, appeared at this time, and it was named the Lamont Poetry Selection for best second book of poetry of 1984. Richard Tillinghast reviewed Deep within the Ravine for the New York Times Book Review. He compared the humorous, conversational tone of many of Schultz's poems to bits in a stand-up comedy routine. Schultz "is at his best in familiar monologues—humorous and nostalgic, with an edge of irony, sadness and self-mockery. The pictures they paint are vivid and memorable," Tillinghast observed.
Fifteen years passed without another volume-length collection from Schultz. Then, in 2002, he published The Holy Worm of Praise, a collection that "confirms this poet's calling as an elegist," according to a contributor to Publishers Weekly. As in his earlier works, Schultz draws on his personal life for his material; here, there are poems about his parents as well as his literary influences, including Yehuda Amichai, Joseph Brodsky, John Cheever, and William Dickey. A Publishers Weekly critic, however, abjured Schultz's happier poems as too often exhibiting a tendency for "weak similes" and sentimentality, contending that the poet "is at his best in the gritty voice of a 'Prison Doctor.'" Though Stephen Whited, writing in Book, also found Schultz's most personal poems his least successful, he praised the author for not taking himself too seriously, for the care he lavishes on every line of every poem, and for the "delightful" personae he adopts in many of his poems. Schultz does not have all the answers, Whited concluded, "but he can be depended upon to ask all the important questions." Daniel L. Guillory writing in Library Journal called The Holy Worm of Praise, "one of the strongest collections of lyrics publised in the last decade."
Schultz once told CA: "I tend to write about my personal experience and how it affects and is affected by my times. My past, in particular, has proven to be a rich source of material. My father was born in Russia, and the street I grew up on—now a lost world—was filled with immigrants from several Eastern European countries. This culture offered a mysterious, if not bewildering, contrast to the American life I now lead. I write about those things which most obsess me, things I feel passionately about.
Schultz more recently told CA: "My first influences were paintings and painters; I spent hours pouring over art books in the library and bookstores. Van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse—I loved their color and sense of design and, of course their passion. I drew throughout school (took art classes in graduate school) and was my high school cartoonist. To this day I envy painters and find painting and sculpturing a source of inspiration. I began writing, and wanting to be a writer, in my junior year of high school, and it was the fiction writers: Hemingway, Philip Roth, Bellows, and Walker Percy who inspired me. I also loved the sound of a well-designed first-person voice and strove to discover one that would do justice to the material I wanted to write about. I didn't begin reading poetry seriously until college, and then switched from fiction to poetry in graduate school at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. I always envied the fiction writer's narrative freedom, and have been working on long poems, wanting to recreate that sense of a self-made world in my work.
"I revise a great deal, and work, perhaps somewhat the way a painter does, applying layer after layer of ideas (sometimes in the manner of a collage), feelings and narrative incident onto the basic framework of a story I'm trying to tell. I rewrote "Souls over Harlem" thirty times or more over a six-year period, adding two stories onto the original: one of a crime committed in Harlem, personalizing it by identifying with both the criminal and the victims, and then adding my own story and that of a friend who committed suicide in 1972. One story became three, and the evolving structure allowed me to discuss ideas about race and innocence I'd been struggling with ever since I began writing. This process takes a long time to discover, but having worked on "Souls over Harlem" gave me the structure and fortitude to write an eighty-one page poem, "Living in the Dead." This poem is about the year leading up to a boy's bar mitzvah and the world of displaced people and immigrants he was surrounded by. This is material I've been working on, in one form or other, since I began writing. And I wrote it quickly (for me)—in little over a year.
"The most surprising thing I've learned as a writer is that I could be a painter and a fiction writer in my poetry by faithfully pursuing my instincts and taking those aspects I most loved and applying them to my poems. I love the surprises of narrative and the invention of the persona voice and the celebration and constant unfolding of color and form.
"I can't pick a favorite book because it's all an ongoing process and I don't really measure or compare the work in one to that of another; one book teaches me the necessary techniques to write the next. The one I'm working on presently insists on receiving special attention or it would never get written.
"I hope my work is strong enough to call attention to the stories I am telling. The world of the past is lost unless we reinvent it and our place in it. This is perhaps what all my work has been about—reinventing the past so that it didn't exist in vain. So that we don't."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Poet, April, 1985, review of Deep within the Ravine, p. 43; spring, 2002, review of The Holy Worm of Praise, p. 61.
Book, July-August, 2002, Stephen Whited, review of The Holy Worm of Praise, p. 80.
Booklist, December 15, 1984, review of Deep within the Ravine, p. 555.
Book World, December 30, 1984, review of Deep within the Ravine, p. 6.
Coda, November-December, 1979.
Georgia Review, spring, 1985, review of Deep within the Ravine, 188.
Library Journal, September 1, 1984, review of Deep within the Ravine, p. 1677; July, 2002, Daniel L. Guillory, review of The Holy Worm of Praise, p. 86.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 6, 1985, review of Deep within the Ravine, p. 28.
Nation, December 22, 1984, review of Deep within the Ravine, p. 687.
New York Times Book Review, March 31, 1985, Richard Tillinghast, review of Deep within the Ravine, p. 14.
Publishers Weekly, September 7, 1984, review of Deep within the Ravine, p. 69; March 18, 2002, review of The Holy Worm of Praise, p. 93.
Virginia Quarterly Review, winter, 1985, review of Deep within the Ravine, p. 28.
Writers Studio,http://www.writerstudio.com/ (June 14, 2002), Frazier Russell, "An Interview with Philip Schultz."