Living in the Past by Philip Schultz

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Set in Rochester, New York, in the fifties, this extraordinary book-length sequence traces the year in a boy's life leading up to his bar mitzvah and passage into manhood. There is a lively mixture of ethnic groups here-many of them displaced by the war in Europe-with new hopes and dreams. It is a uniquely American place, where "no matter how far down you started from, you began again from the beginning."

As the alternately elegiac and humorous poems conclude, the boy has become a man with a family of his own, but memories of his childhood linger. The cycles of life go on, and Schultz continues to render them with wit, grace, and above all a sense of wonder.

I know what Mrs. Einhorn said Mrs. Edels told Mr. Kook about us: God save us from having one shirt, one eye, one child. I know in order to survive. Grandma throws her shawl of exuberant birds over her bony shoulders and ladles up yet another chicken thigh out of the steaming broth of the infinite night sky. -from "Grandma climbs"


About Philip Schultz

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Philip Schultz is the author of seven collections of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Failure. He is the founder and director of the Writers Studio and lives in East Hampton, New York.
Published April 5, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 112 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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A worried boy gets ready for his bar mitzvah, a grown man looks back on his extended family, and a somber poet reflects on the Holocaust in this moving, if hardly groundbreaking, sequence of 81 untitled poems.

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