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About this poet

The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Hyam Plutzik was born in Brooklyn, New York, on July 13, 1911, and raised in Connecticut. Plutzik, who spoke Yiddish, Russian, and Hebrew at home, did not learn English until he began grammar school at the age of seven in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Connecticut. Plutzik later recalled that he first developed his interest in poetry while in this rural environment.

In 1932, he graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he had studied closely with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Odell Shepard. Plutzik received a two-year fellowship to pursue graduate studies at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he studied literature and poetry. Although he left Yale at the end of his fellowship before receiving his degree, he won Yale’s Cook prize, awarded to the best unpublished poem or group of poems, in 1933 for his poem “The Three.”

In the years following his departure from Yale, Plutzik took various editorial jobs before retreating to the Connecticut countryside, where he worked on a satirical novel about dictatorship. In 1940, he returned to Yale to complete his master’s degree, during which time he won the Cook prize for a second time.

In 1942, Plutzik enlisted in the Army and moved to twelve different cities before heading overseas. Although Army life made it difficult for him to write, he did begin what would eventually grow into “Horatio,” a 2,000-line narrative poem.

After his discharge from the Army, Plutzik was hired as an English professor at the University of Rochester in New York, where he remained for the rest of his professional life.

In 1949, he published his first collection of poems, Aspects of Proteus (Harpers). Ten years later, he released his second collection, Apples from Shinar (Wesleyan University Press), which received the University of Rochester’s Lillian P. Fairchild Award. Horatio (Atheneum) was published in 1961. All three of these poetry collections were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

Plutzik’s work examines nature and the paradoxes of time, the relationship between poetry and science, and delves into questions of Jewish history and identity. In his report for the 1960 Pulitzer Prize (awarded to W. D. Snodgrass), prize juror Alfred Kreymbourg said of Plutzik, who was a finalist for his book Horatio, “While he is not a musical poet like most of his contemporaries, he more than compensates by the strength and depth of his writing and the power of his visions and personality.”

Plutzik was the recipient of the California Borestone Mountain Poetry Award with Rolfe Humphries. In 1961, he was appointed Deane Professor of Rhetoric and Poetry at the University of Rochester. The following year, the university established the Plutzik Poetry Series in his honor. In 2002, the City of Rochester proclaimed a “Hyam Plutzik Day.”

Plutzik died of cancer on January 8, 1962, at the age of fifty. His other published works include Letter from a Young Poet (Books & Books Press, 2016) and Hyam Plutzik: The Collected Poems (BOA Editions, 1987).


Bibliography

Poetry
Hyam Plutzik: The Collected Poems (BOA Editions, 1987)
Horatio (Atheneum, 1961)
Apples from Shinar (Wesleyan University Press, 1959; 2011)
Aspects of Proteus (Harper and Row, 1949)
Death at the Purple Rim (The Artisan Press, 1941)
The Three (Yale University Press, 1933)

Prose
Letter from a Young Poet (Books & Books Press, 2016)

My Sister

Now the swift rot of the flesh is over.
Now only the slow rot of the bones in the Northern damp.
Even the bones of that tiny foot that brought her doom.

Imagine a land where there is no rain as we know rain.
Not the quick dashing of water to the expectant face,
But the weary ooze of spent drops in the earth.

Imagine the little skeleton lying there—
In the terrible declination of the years—
On the solitary bed, in the crumbling shell of a world.

Amid the monsters with lipless teeth who lie there in wait—
The saurian multitudes who rest in that land—
And the men without eyes who forever glare at the sky.

And the ominous strangers ever entering.
Why are they angry? They keep their arms to themselves.
Comfort themselves in the cold. Whisper no word.

And the black dog has come, but he does not play.
And no one moves but the man who walks in the sky—
A strange man who comes to cut the grass.

Seventeen years....

And already the fair flesh dispersed, the proud form broken.
The glaciers move from the north and the sun is dying.
And into the chasm of Time alone and tiny....

The Man of War sits in the gleaming chair.
Struts through the halls. The Dispencer of Vengeance laughs,
Crying victory! victory! victory! victory!

Victory.

Copyright © by the Estate of Hyam Plutzik. All rights reserved.

Copyright © by the Estate of Hyam Plutzik. All rights reserved.

Hyam Plutzik

Hyam Plutzik

Hyam Plutzik was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1911. During his lifetime, he published three poetry collections: Aspects of Proteus (Harper and Row, 1949), Apples from Shinar (Wesleyan University Press, 1959; 2011), and Horatio (Atheneum, 1961), all three of which were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. Other published works include Hyam Plutzik: The Collected Poems (BOA Editions, 1987) and Letter from a Young Poet (Trinity/Watkinson/Books & Books, 2016). He died in 1962.

by this poet

poem

For instance: y– xa + mx2(a2 + 1) = 0

Coil upon coil, the grave serpent holds
Its implacable strict pose, under a light
Like marble. The artist's damnation, the rat of time,
Cannot gnaw this form, nor event touch it with age.
Before it was, it existed,

poem
Seventy-seven betrayers will stand by the road,
And those who love you will be few but stronger.

Seventy-seven betrayers, skilful and various,
But do not fear them: they are unimportant.

You must learn soon, soon, that despite Judas
The great betrayals are impersonal

(Though many would be Judas, having the
poem

A miscellaneous screaming that comes from nowhere
Raises the eyes at last to the moonward-flying
Squadron of wild-geese arcing the spatial cold.

Beyond the hunter's gun or the will's range