A remarkable life in verse.
Schwab has had a full life to look back on and transmute into poetry. His book ranges over several subjects, from finding love and growing old, to giraffes and Oscar Wilde. His story begins in high school and spans through his time in the U.S. Navy, in academia and beyond, and touches upon themes that speak to both common and unusual experiences. The poems cover many different periods in his life, even touching on his 60th and 89th birthdays. Schwab’s perspective on American gay life is one that’s increasingly rare—he didn’t come out until he was 26 and didn’t have a relationship until he was 38. The author came of age in a gay culture before the age of AIDS and before meaningful civil rights advances. This experience colored his friendships and love affairs, as well as his poetry. Over the course of the book, he outlines relationships that range from one-night stands to long partnerships, always with a keen eye and a ready sense of humor. There’s more in the book than romance, however; Schwab writes about old friends, world events and historical figures as well. A series of poems on Wilde is particularly tender and showcases Schwab’s affection as well as the Irish author’s art: “No pioneer or fighter for the cause / Directly, à la Ulrichs, Hirschfeld, Ives, / His paradoxes were the subtle knives / He wielded in his battle with the laws.” Although Schwab writes more directly on social themes, his poetry wields words and imagery in a way that can be cutting but always demonstrates his deeply held beliefs. Readers who enjoy autobiographical portraits will have plenty to linger over, as will those particularly interested in the lives of gay men. Those who love poetry for its own sake will also find themselves charmed by this collection, which is frank and, as Schwab says of Liberace after death, “stark naked as uncovered piano strings.”
An exceptional poetic trip through an author’s life, loves and intellect.