Well I’ve got this friend, and – I’ll tell ya, man – he’s real hip
An anthropologite, baby, that is his business
But never once – wooh! – does he ever blow his cool
Because he always follows this wondrous golden rule
So first of all, what is an “anthropologite”? The top search results for that word are the women’s clothing retailer Anthropologie, a “Demisexual grunge-emo chick” on Tumblr, and a hotel in Belgium. Presumably it’s a play on “anthropologist,” but are we meant to take that literally?
If I had to guess — and I guess I do — I’d say that this is a reference to Lou Reed’s old mentor and role model Delmore Schwartz. We’ve previously discussed Delmore here and here; he was a writer, which is a sort of anthropologist, and had an outsize influence on young Lewis. They stayed in touch after Lou left Syracuse; in early 1965, roughly around the time the Reed/Cale demo was recorded, Lou wrote a letter that said:
If you’re weak NY has many outlets. I can’t resist peering, probing, sometimes participating, other times going right to the edge before sidestepping. Finding viciousness in yourself and that fantastic killer urge and worse yet having the opportunity presented before you is certainly interesting.
Lou’s gradual ascent to rock stardom roughly coincided with Delmore’s descent into the abyss. In July 1966, shortly after the Velvet Underground recorded their debut album, Schwartz would die of a heart attack, alone in a room in the Chelsea Hotel. His body would not be discovered for two days.
Which is a pretty rock’n’roll way to die. (Not as rock’n’roll as getting stabbed by Sid Vicious, but still.) Afterward, though he may have exited this earthly realm, Delmore lived on as an angelic devil crouching on Lou Reed’s shoulder — telling him not to sell out, to always be cool, to always follow that wondrous golden rule.
While we’re on the subject, here’s a picture of a book of poetry inscribed to Lou by Schwartz that was on display at the “Caught Between the Twisted Stars” exhibit. I don’t think he means “goat” in the modern (G.O.A.T.) sense. I don’t know what he means, actually. But it’s a snappy turn of phrase nonetheless.
Because I am who I am, I had to procure myself a copy of this volume, which was published in very small quantities back in 1950. The fact that Schwartz was inscribing it in 1964 speaks, it would seem, to his lack of productivity in those later years.
So far I am enjoying it. The poems are interspersed with sardonic little essays. many of which are hilarious. But for today I’d like to share with you this poem because it contains a reference to “April’s underground,” which seems most apropos. That will be all for now.
True Recognition Often Is Refused
by Delmore Schwartz
We poets by the past and future used
Stare east and west distractedly at times
Knowing there are, in fullness and in flower,
Chrysanthemums and Mozart in the room,
A stillness and a motion, both in bloom.
Or know a girl upon the sofa’s ease
Curved like a stocking, being profoundly round,
As rich and dark as April’s underground.
We see in strict perception probity,
The lasting soil and good of all our art,
Which purifies the nervous turned-in heart.
And when we hear in music’s empty halls
Torn banners blowing in the rain and shame,
We know these passages are surfaces,
Knowing that our vocation cannot be
Merely a Sunday with the beautiful
There is pace and grace we must fulfill.
For we must earn through dull dim suffering,
Through ignorance and darkened hope, and hope
Risen again, and clouded over again, and dead despair,
And many little deaths, hardly observed,
The early morning light we have deserved.
Oh, wait, one more thing: that mid-line “wooh!”, which occurs at 0:43 of the song:
It feels like a preview of one of my favorite-ever Velvets moments, which occurs at 3:24 here:
But at this point that’s four years and a thousand changes into the future. For now, happy Passover, or Easter, or Ramadan, or whatever your jam is. There are problems in these times, but may none of them be yours.