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Who’s on First?

New and Selected Poems

New and selected poems by renowned poet Lloyd Schwartz.
For more than four decades, readers and critics have found Lloyd Schwartz’s poems unlike anyone else’s—a rare combination of the heartbreaking and the hilarious. With his ear for the poetry of the vernacular, Schwartz offers us a memorable cast of characters—both real and imagined, foolish and oracular. Readers experience his mother’s piercing flashes of memory, the perverse comic wisdom of Gracie Allen, the uninhibited yet loving exhibitionists of antique pornography, and eager travelers crossing America in a club-car or waiting in a Brazilian airport. Schwartz listens to these people without judging—understanding that they are all trying to live their lives, whenever possible, with tenderness, humor, and grace.

Who’s on First? brings together a selection of poems from all of Schwartz’s previous collections along with eagerly awaited new poems, highlighting his formal inventiveness in tangling and untangling the yarn of comedy and pathos. Underlying all of these poems is the question of what it takes and what it costs to make art.

211 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2021

Phoenix Poets



"A triumph of a collection. . . Who’s on First?, a volume of new and selected work, gathers poems from each of Schwartz's previous four collections, as well as welcome and thrilling new work. These are not grim poems, but death hovers. Schwartz pays much attention to work — specifically the work of art-making, of devoting one’s life to music, painting, writing — but our main task, he seems to say, our highest effort, is preparing for death. . . . Part of the job of the poet is to bring the light to the space between what we sense and what we understand. And so Schwartz does, a glint in the eye, a flash of grin, and a profound sense of the ways everything and all of us are all the time vanishing."

Nina MacLaughlin | Boston Globe

"Schwartz presents a new and selected collection documenting an expansive breadth of work centered on dialogue and singular characters that is full of linguistic play, autobiography, and a philosophical and satirical urgency in addressing family and romantic relationships. . . . Schwartz creates a barrage of self-referential and psychological thoughts along with quotes from movies that pummel the reader with their vitality, their revelations, and their questioning until all is understood, thanks to the poet's blunt wisdom and grace."


"Schwartz is, by any measure, a potent force in American letters. . . . Schwartz's poetry, as evidenced by Who's on First?, Schwartz's new collection of selected and new poems, resembles the man: humane, artful, erudite complexity overlaid with a kind of humble simplicity—real feeling, real pain and real darkness, held at bay with warmth and wisdom and wit. These are poems about love, often doomed—love for a beloved who won't love you back in the way you need to be loved; love for a dying mother, love for a friend who breaks off the friendship without warning or word. (Schwartz has, like his mentor and friend Bishop, mastered the essential human art of loss.) But they'll also make you laugh out loud."

Sam Cha | Arrowsmith Journal

“As in all his collections, the poems in Schwartz’s Who’s on First? are distinguished by their unsentimental but heartbreaking tenderness, Schwartz’s pitch perfect ear for dialogue, his great sense of humor, and a kind of prose like expansiveness that is never slack or merely prose. His long lines, often coinciding with the sentence generate a sly rhythm that depends on an underlying meter that the rhythm disguises even while soliciting. These poems are funny and deeply disquieting, intimate yet decorous, and by that I mean they strike an ever-changing just right unanticipated balance between disclosure and withholding, statement and image, descriptive detail and discursiveness. Schwartz is great company, humane, considerate, and incredibly moving.”

Alan Shapiro, author of Against Translation

“To read Schwartz’s poems is to hear voices. From his first book in 1981 to the striking new work, he plunges us into a phantasmagorical documentary. We become eavesdroppers and voyeurs of the whole human parade—desperate intimacies of parents and children, lovers, friends. His art finds its emblem in Titian’s Marsyas, the musician faun flayed alive by Apollo. In these severe poems, Schwartz is both sacrifice and sacrificer, forcing us to see into the heart of things.”

Rosanna Warren, author of So Forth

“In a series of stark, disarming poems about his mother’s dementia, Schwartz has given us a portrait of what another age would have called THE GOOD. They are collected here for the first time. You will never forget the best poems in this book.”

Frank Bidart, author of Half-Light

Table of Contents

from These People (1981)
Who’s on First?
Mug Shots
A Philosophical Problem
The Wanderer
The Recital
from Goodnight, Gracie (1992)
Gisela Brüning
In the Mist 
House Hunting
from “Crossing the Rockies”: At the Window
Fourteen People
Goodnight, Gracie
Pseudodoxia Epidemica
Simple Questions
from Cairo Traffic (2000)
A True Poem
Friendly Song (by Carlos Drummond de Andrade)
She Forgets
The Two Horses (A Memory)
He Tells His Mother What He’s Working On
The Two Churches (A Dream)
Proverbs from Purgatory
The Dream During My Mother’s Recuperation
No Orpheus
Her Waltz
Nostalgia (The Lake at Night)
Renato’s Dream
from “Cairo Traffic”: 9. Temple of Dendur, Metropolitan Museum of Art
from Little Kisses (2017)
Little Kisses
My Other Grandmother
Lost Causes
The Conductor
Six Words
Is Light Enough? 00
New Name
La Valse
Tehran Spring (by Affonso Romano de Sant’Anna)
Small Airport in Brazil
In Flight
To My Oldest Friend, Whose Silence Is Like a Death
Jerry Garcia in a Somerville Parking Lot
New Poems (2001–2021)
Vermeer’s Pearl
Escher: Still Life with Mirror (1934)
The World
God Hour (Eric Lundquist: In Memoriam)
In Emily Dickinson’s Bedroom
My Doctor’s Death
Lubitsch’s Angel
Ralph Hamilton’s Faces
Titian’s Marsyas
The Rehearsal

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