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Personal Information: Family: Born April 21, 1945, in St. Louis, MO; son of Nathan (a dealer in jewelry and antiques) and Bluma (Rubin) Schwartz; married Tsila Khanem (a calligrapher and illustrator), June 25, 1978; children: Shira, Nathan, Miriam. Education: Washington University, St. Louis, MO, B.A., 1967, M.A., 1969. Politics: "Pro-human." Religion: Jewish. Addresses: Home: 14 Hill North Dale Lane, St. Louis, MO 53132. Office: Department of English, University of Missouri--St. Louis, 8001 Natural Bridge Rd., St. Louis, MO 63121; fax: 314-997-3066. E-mail: email@example.com.
Career: Forest Park Community College, St. Louis, MO, instructor in English, 1969-70; University of Missouri--St. Louis, St. Louis, MO, began as instructor, became professor of English, 1970--.
WRITINGS BY THE AUTHOR:
Contributor to books, including Heartland II: Poets of the
Midwest,edited by Lucien Stryk, Northern Illinois University Press
(DeKalb, IL), 1975; A Big Jewish Book, edited by Jerome Rothenberg,
Doubleday (New York, NY), 1978; Wandering Stars II, edited by Jack
Dunn, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1981; Voices from the Interior: Poets
of Missouri, edited by Robert Stewart, BkMk Press (Kansas City, MO),
1982; and Missouri Short Fiction, edited by Conger Beasley, Jr.,
BkMk Press (Kansas City, MO), 1985. Editor, "Hebrew Poetry Translation
Series," Cauldron Press, 1979-83. Contributor of more than 150 articles,
poems, and stories to literary journals, including American Poetry
Review, Parabola,Midstream, Judaism, and
Literary Review. Former coeditor, Reflections and
"Sidelights"In contemplating themes and images for both his fiction and his poetry, Howard Schwartz often turns to biblical, midrashic, and kabbalistic lore for inspiration. According to Jack Riemer of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, this "rediscovery of the Jewish mystical tradition"represents the author's attempt "to give continuity to that tradition in a contemporary form."
His fictional works, as demonstrated in the collection of parables titled The Captive Soul of the Messiah, "are in part original, in part recreations of ancient legends, a conjunction of personal search and dreaming with mythical or timeless patterns or cycles," reported Francis Landy in the Jewish Quarterly. As a result, the reviewer continued, Schwartz's stories "are at once familiar, filled with the aura of the sages, giving the impression of a blind and insatiable predilection for the alleyways of tradition, and at the same time being wholly pertinent, incisive metaphors for our own predicament." In the Jerusalem Post MagazineGabriel Levin praised the author's "spirited mixture of imaginative freshness and hutzpa," while Joseph Schraibman in the St. Louis Jewish Light found that "Jewish history and mythology co-exist beautifully in [Schwartz's] fictive world. . . . His inventive visions and poetic language constantly invite the reader to muse on familiar figures and tales."
Schwartz's poetry, too, draws from the dreamy and mysterious elements of Jewish mythology. Commenting on Gathering the Sparks: Poems, 1965-1979, Nancy Schapiro of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote that his poems "seem to spring from a collective mythology, rather than from a limited subjectivity." Most of them, she explained, "are night poems, filled with darkness, illuminated by moonlight. They are dream vessels. . . . [But] above all, they are vessels of song." Deborah Maccoby observed in the Jewish Chronicle that "in some poems the ultimate power is tender and beneficent; in others terrifying and daemonic. His polished craftsmanship creates a bright, jewel-like, lyrical total effect, which contrasts strangely with the disturbing quality of his themes." Kim Chernin concluded in the East/West Journal: "Howard Schwartz is a writer of poetry in which angels, mysterious visitors, ancient prophets, and great visions appear. . . . This is the great miracle in [his writing]: standing firmly within the traditional, he is yet the newest, most accomplished and essential voice in poetry today."
Schwartz's well-known anthologies of Jewish literature are also rooted in his belief that the "rich literary tradition" of Judaism is one of the best means for communicating "a sense of continuity and love for one's [heritage]" to new generations, as he explained to Judaica Book News interviewer Don Crinklaw. Tales gleaned from oral traditions and written sources from Around the World are collected in Elijah's Violin and Other Jewish Fairy Tales; poems from forty countries, many of them translated from more than twenty languages, fill Voices within the Ark: The Modern Jewish Poets. These "bulky" anthologies, Crinklaw mused, "are so comprehensive that one has the sense that Schwartz began reading the day after he was born."
Schwartz told the interviewer that the combination of "research and creative writing" required to prepare Elijah's Violin was "most gratifying." Combing through the extensive collection of the Israel Folktale Archives and other sources, Schwartz found several versions for some tales and only fragments for others; later, he arrived at "one archetypical version" of each tale by means of "a creative leap" while remaining "as true as possible" to the sources. The resulting collection "is a feast of images, characters, places, wonderment--all fused together by the sense that all these stories have been told for many years--some for as long as 1,000 years--by Jews wherever they have lived," declared Peninnah Schram. Her review, published in the Melton Journal, continued, "By retelling and compiling all of these fairy tales . . . Howard Schwartz has reestablished certain powerful themes in our Jewish tradition which are not widely known in our time." The book was a main selection of the Jewish Book Club and was recommended in nationwide reviews to readers of all ages and faiths.
When asked if the success of the retold "archaic parables . . . had something to do with the modern Jew's reaction against assimilation,"Schwartz answered yes, explaining that first- and second-generation Jewish immigrants in America worked at "shedding the past completely. The third generation, to which I belong," he told Crinklaw, "looks back and cries, 'Look what you've lost! Look what you've traded away!'"
The role of tradition in modern identity is also a subject of the
poetry anthology Schwartz edited with Anthony Rudolf. "The concern with
being perhaps the last Jews is one of the thematic elements that pervades
'Voices within the Ark,'" wrote New York Times Book Review
contributor Harold Bloom. He saw this especially in the poetry from the
United States "where more and more [the Diaspora] seems not to be a
Diaspora at all, but where the price of being deeply at home seems to be
an increasing process of cultural extinction. . . . The dilemma seems to
be either too much tradition or too little." Writing in the St.
Louis-Post Dispatch,Carolyn McKee noted that though some of the poems
in Voices within the Ark express Jewish themes, many do not; in
fact, the influence most evident in the poems written in English is that
of American, not Jewish, literary traditions. In her view, some of the
poems were included specifically to answer "a need to hold the ark
together, to create harmony in a ship whose passengers are singing a
multitude of tunes." Therefore, she asserted that "modern Jewish poetry is
not a literary category, although it may be a useful social and
intellectual one." In the Jewish Advocate Sylvia Rothschild
commented: "In a very dramatic way, this generous collection of poems is
in answer to questions about where Jews have lived, loved, worked and
struggled. . . . the impact of the collection goes far beyond the
individual poems and poets." These assessments echoed Crinklaw's comment
that "In editing these books Schwartz has performed a service to Jewish
FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Source: Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2003.
Gale Database: Contemporary Authors
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