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Howard Schwartz

1945-

Nationality: American
Entry Updated : 04/21/2003
Place of Birth: St. Louis, MO

Genre(s): Poetry

Award(s):
First place award, Academy of American Poets, 1969; poetry fellow, St. Louis Arts and Humanities Commission, 1981; selection as one of the 100 best children's books of the year, New York Public Library, 1983, for Elijah's Violin and Other Jewish Fairy Tales, and 1996, for The Wonder Child and Other Jewish Fairy Tales; American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation, 1984, for The Captive Soul of the Messiah: New Tales about Reb Nachman; notable book selection, American Library Association, 1991, nomination for National Jewish Book Award, children's literature category, 1992, and Sydney Taylor Book Award, 1992, all for The Diamond Tree: Jewish Tales from around the World; honorary doctorate, Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, 1996; notable book for children selection, Smithsonian, 1996, for Next Year in Jerusalem: 3,000 Years of Jewish Stories, and 2000, for The Day the Rabbi Disappeared: Jewish Holiday Tales of Magic; Aesop Prize, American Folklore Society, 1996, for Next Year in Jerusalem, and 2000, for The Day the Rabbi Disappeared;National Jewish Book Award, children's literature category, 1996, for Next Year in Jerusalem, and 2000, for The Day the Rabbi Disappeared; Anne Izard Storytellers' Choice Award, 1998, for The Wonder Child and Other Jewish Fairy Tales, and 1998, for A Coat for the Moon and Other Jewish Tales; finalist for National Jewish Book Award, Jewish thought category, 1999, for Reimagining the Bible: The Storytelling of the Rabbis; Young Adult Book Award, Keystone State Reading Association, 2001, for Ask the Bones: Scary Stories from Around the World; inducted into University City High School Hall of Fame, 2001.

Table of Contents:
Personal Information
Career
Writings
Works in Progress
Media Adaptations
Sidelights
Further Readings About the Author

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: hschwartz@umsl.edu.


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:

FICTION

  • A Blessing over Ashes, Tree Books (Berkeley, CA), 1974.

  • Midrashim: Collected Jewish Parables, Menard Press (London, England), 1976.

  • The Captive Soul of the Messiah, Cauldron Press, 1980, published as The Captive Soul of the Messiah: New Tales about Reb Nachman,illustrated by Mark Podwal, Schocken (New York, NY), 1983.

  • Rooms of the Soul, illustrated by T. Schwartz, Rossel Books (New York, NY), 1984.

  • Adam's Soul: The Collected Tales of Howard Schwartz, J. Aronson (Northvale, NJ), 1992.

  • The Four Who Entered Paradise: A Novella, illustrated by Devis Grebu, J. Aronson (Northvale, NJ), 1995.

POETRY

  • Vessels, Unicorn Press (Greensboro, NC), 1976.

  • Gathering the Sparks: Poems 1965-1979, Singing Wind Press (St. Louis, MO)), 1979.

  • Sleepwalking beneath the Stars, illustrated by John Brandi, BkMk Press (Kansas City, MO), 1992.

FOR CHILDREN

  • The Diamond Tree: Jewish Nursery Tales from around the World,illustrated by Uri Shulevitz, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.

  • The Sabbath Lion: A Jewish Folktale from Algeria, illustrated by Stephen Fieser, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.

  • Next Year in Jerusalem: 3,000 Years of Jewish Stories, illustrated by Neil Waldman, Viking Children's Books (New York, NY), 1996.

  • The Wonder Child and Other Jewish Fairy Tales, illustrated by Stephen Fieser, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.

  • A Coat for the Moon and Other Jewish Tales, illustrated by Michael Iofin, Jewish Publication Society (Philadelphia, PA), 1999.

  • Ask The Bones: Scary Stories from around the World, illustrated by David Linn, Viking (New York, NY), 1999.

  • The Day the Rabbi Disappeared: Jewish Holiday Tales of Magic,illustrated by Monique Passicot, Viking (New York, NY), 2000.

  • A Journey to Paradise and Other Jewish Tales, Pitspopany Press (Jerusalem, Israel), 2000.

  • Invisible Kingdoms: Jewish Tales of Angels, Spirits, and Demons,HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

EDITOR

  • Lilith's Cave, Isthmus Press, 1975, published as Lilith's Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural, illustrated by Uri Shulevitz, Harper (New York, NY), 1987.

  • Imperial Messages: One-hundred Modern Parables, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1976, third edition published as Tales of Modern Wisdom,Random House (New York, NY), 1996.

  • For a Few Hours Only: Selected Poems of Shlomo Vinner, Singing Bone Books, 1976.

  • (With Anthony Rudolf) Voices within the Ark: The Modern Jewish Poets, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1980.

  • Elijah's Violin and Other Jewish Fairy Tales, illustrated by Linda Heller, calligraphy by wife, Tsila Schwartz, Harper (New York, NY), 1983, revised edition, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994.

  • Gates to the New City: A Treasury of Modern Jewish Tales, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1983, second edition, J. Aronson (Northvale, NJ), 1991.

  • Miriam's Tambourine: Jewish Folktales from around the World,illustrated by Lloyd Bloom, Free Press (New York, NY), 1986.

  • The Dream Assembly: Tales of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi,illustrated by Yitzhak Greenfield, Amity House (Amity, NY), 1987.

  • Jerusalem as She Is: New and Selected Poems of Shlomo Vinner, BkMk Press (Kansas City, MO), 1990.

  • Gabriel's Palace: Jewish Mystical Tales, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1993.

  • (With Barbara Raznick) First Harvest: Jewish Writing in St. Louis, 1991-1997, Brodsky Library Press (St. Louis, MO), 1997.

OTHER

  • Dream Journal 1965-1974, Tree Books (Berkeley, CA), 1975.

  • (Translator) Lyrics and Laments: Selected Translations from Hebrew and Yiddish, BkMk Press (Kansas City, MO), 1980.

  • Reimagining the Bible: The Storytelling of The Rabbis (essays), Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1998.

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 Tambourine.

Works in Progress:The Mythology of Judaism, publication by Oxford University Press (New York, NY) expected in 2003.


Media Adaptations: The Sabbath Lion: A Jewish Folk Tale from Algeria was adapted as a cartoon feature, broadcast by BBC-TV in 1996. The stories in Gabriel's Place: Jewish Mystical Tales were adapted as a play, Gabriel's Place, performed in England by the Besht Tellers, 1996. Six stories from the book Lilith's Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural were adapted as a play, Kabbalah: Scary Jewish Tales,produced in Los Angeles, CA, at the Lex Theater, 2000. Folk tales "The Sabbath Lion," "The Bird of Happiness," and "Drawing the Wind"from Schwartz's various collections have been selected for the radio series One People, Many Stories, KCSN-Radio, Los Angeles, CA.

"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 literature."

FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

BOOKS

  • Gitenstein, R. Barbara, Apocalyptic Messianism and Contemporary Jewish-American Poetry, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1987.

PERIODICALS

  • Canadian Jewish News, December 18, 1980; June 30, 1983.

  • Commentary, July, 1981.

  • East/West Journal, March, 1978, article by Kim Chernin.

  • Iron, fall, 1977.

  • Jerusalem Post Magazine, January 26, 1979; June 12, 1981; September 7, 1984.

  • Jewish Chronicle, June 9, 1978, article by Deborah Maccoby.

  • Jewish Quarterly, summer, 1977, Francis Landy, review of The Captive Soul of the Messiah: New Tales about Reb Nachman.

  • Jewish Star, September 7, 1983.

  • Judaica Book News, fall-winter, 1984; spring-summer, 1985.

  • Los Angeles Times, November 23, 1976.

  • Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 4, 1983.

  • Melton Journal, summer, 1984, Peninnah Schram, review of Elijah's Violin and Other Jewish Fairy Tales.

  • New Letters, fall, 1976.

  • New York Times Book Review, January 4, 1981, Harold Bloom, review of Voices within the Ark: The Modern Jewish Poets.

  • Parabola, winter, 1976.

  • Present Tense, winter, 1985.

  • Skywriting, spring, 1978.

  • South Bend Tribune, January 25, 1981.

  • St. Louis Jewish Light, May, 1980, Joseph Schraibman, review of The Captive Soul of the Messiah.

  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 19, 1976; January 6, 1977; May 22, 1977; January 4, 1981, Carolyn McKee, review of Voices within the Ark.

  • Washington Post Book World, February 15, 1981.

Source: Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2003.

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