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A Master of Two Worlds

July - August 2016

by Andrew Latimer

YOU CAN IMAGINE the anticipation: Hyam Plutzik, a thirty-year-old American-Belarusian farm-hand, secretary, journalist and, most successfully, poet, licks the back of an envelope containing a sev-enty-two-page letter, which had taken him seven months to construct, in which he expounds upon the previous seven years of his life’s experiences since leaving Yale in ‘disgrace’ – complete with poetic ex-tracts, mystical fibrillations and a varied, if not a lit-tle deflating, curriculum vitae. And who was the ad-dressee of this epistolary magnum opus? None other than his old Trinity professor, Odell Shepard.

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Hyam Plutzik - Letter from a Young Poet

May 22, 2016

by Anthony Costello

Plutzik's Letter from a Young Poet should not be confused with Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. Whereas Rilke's book works on the principal of a literary exchange, an interplay, an addressee, a recipient, Hyam's book is more a portrait of the artist as a young man, a literary memoir for the universal reader, a monologue, the sole recipient (in this case Odell Shepard, Plutzik's erstwhile Professor at Yale), seems as notional as Shepard's reply was redundant (he wrote a two page unsent reply to Plutzik's 70 page missive). There is never any advice asked of Shepard (Shepard notes this in his reply, published here as an afterword), which further removes it from any parallel with Rilke's book. It does, however, conform to a theory expounded by Rilke that a writer should always live in the question, in Plutzik's case a seven year self-questioning.

Daniel Halpern on Hyam Plutzik's "Letter from a Young Poet" 

April 20, 2016

By David Lehman

"A poet ripe for rediscovery."

The new, just-published edition of Hyam Plutzik's Letter from a Young Poet (Watkinson / Trinity College / Books and Books Press, 2016) is a welcome event. Plutzik (1911-1962), the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia, studied at Trinity College in Connecticut and at Yale, and later established himself as a beloved professor of English at the University of Rochester. A poet ripe for rediscovery, Plutzik wrote the ambitious book-length poem Horatio in which Hamlet's confidante takes to heart the injunction to absent himself from felicity awhile and give a true account of the events that wrecked the royal court of Denmark.

Thoughts on Hyam Plutzik, Letter from a Young Poet  

April 20, 2016

By Edward Moran

Hyam Plutzik’s eloquent Letter from a Young Poet still resonates with today’s millennials in their quest for life’s calling.

Seventy-five years after it was written by a twenty-something college graduate—and long before that graduate became a Rochester professor—Hyam Plutzik’s eloquent Letter from a Young Poet still resonates with today’s millennials in their quest for life’s calling. Addressed to Odell Shepard, Plutzik’s mentor at Trinity College, the 72-page letter is a “song of the self and the soul,” in the words of poet Daniel Halpern, who wrote the Foreword to the book, published in 2015 by Trinity’s Watkinson Library.

Letters to/from Young Poets

April 19, 2016

By Dan Wakefield in Books and Writers

The letters that the great German poet Rainier Maria Rilke wrote to a young student at a military academy from 1903-1908 are still being read today. I suspect that they will continue to be read as long as people want to write poetry – or stories or novels or plays or memoirs.  The letters were published in 1929 as Letters to a Young Poet (Penguin) and the slim volume has been in print ever since, in many languages. It is not a “How to Do It” book, and does not presume to tell the reader how to construct a sentence or a sonnet or how to create a plot; least of all does it give any hints or formulas for the questions that most aspiring writers are burning to ask: “Is my work any good? How can I get published?”  

Plutzik’s progress: Watkinson publishes lost letter

'The story ... is absorbing, and is short enough that it can be read in a single afternoon.'


One of the first things you have to know about Hyam Plutzik is that he graduated from Trinity College. This is important because it strikes a chord in his poetry, and affects its tone. But there’s a great deal more to learn about him, too. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Plutzik’s work, perhaps it’s because Plutzik’s anthology is reasonably small, though lauded by three Pulitzer Prize nominations. It could also be because one of his essential writings, recently published by actions of the Watkinson Library, had been hidden away in the silent stacks there for just about 70 years.

Challenging the Coming Menace

February 1, 2016

by Amos Lassen

Hyam Plutzik wrote this letter on the eve of America’s entry into World War II and in it w find a young Jewish American man’s spiritual and literary odyssey that began in rural Connecticut and went on to urban Brooklyn during the hectic 1930s. Young Plutzik tells his mentor, what it means for a poet to live an authentic life in the modern world. Plutzik ultimately found a path that responded to both by his literary muses and his ancestral voices. We can see this as an early example of Holocaust literature from the way Plutzik challenges the growing menace of Nazism that he sees looming from afar.

Alumnus Penned ‘Letter from a Young Poet’

January 21, 2016

Hartford, Connecticut – Faculty mentorship is integral to the liberal arts college experience. For Hyam Plutzik ’32, an accomplished poet and alumnus of Trinity College, it was transformative. His devotion to English Professor Odell Shepard, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who taught at Trinity from 1917 to 1946, inspired Plutzik to pen a 72-page missive to the man who affected him so greatly. Written in 1941, the letter was left among Shepard’s papers, which are held by the Watkinson Library at Trinity College.

The Writer's Room

December, 2015

It should come as no surprise that hotels have long been incubators of poetry and the arts. For 700 years, readers have been feasting on Chaucer’s tales of pilgrims sauntering to Canterbury from the Tabard Inn in Southwark...

A Great Stag, Broad-Antlered: Rediscovering Hyam Plutzik

May, 2012

The conclusion of Hyam Plutzik’s 1962 poem,Horatio, provide an apt commentary on Plutzik’s own unobtrusive presence in the world of American letters:


A great stag came out of the woods,
Broad-antlered, approaching slowly on the moonlit field,
And looked about him like a king and re-entered the dark.

Veterans share service memories on interactive bus

November, 2010

The Miami Herald - Hyam Plutzik served in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, stationed throughout the American South and then in Norwich, England with the 2nd Air Division, where he was an ordnance officer for the D-Day invasion in 1944. On Veterans’ Day 2010, The Betsy Hotel in South Beach, Miami honored those who served our nation by sponsoring a program in conjunction with the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. The program invited families of veterans to share letters written to and from servicemen and women in America’s wars, past and present, and to record their gratitude on film. Some of these memories and messages became part of the documentary film “Nothing Can Be Done, But Something Can Be Said,” which had its world premiere at the event. The title is derived from a line in Hyam Plutzik’s poem “Requiem for Edwin Carrigh.” The film also included a segment in which Hyam Plutzik’s widow, Tanya, read letters written by her husband during World War II.

"Portrait of an Obscure Poet" 

December 11, 2007

The Jerusalem Post - Recent buzz about Hyam Plutzik’s work led the University of Rochester in New York to search for an archivist to organize video footage of materials relating to the life and work of Hyam Plutzik, who spent his entire teaching career as Professor of English there. Documentary filmmaker Christine Choy, who is best known for her political documentaries – including Who Killed Vincent Chin?, about discrimination aimed at Asian-Americans – recognized a winning story and joined forces with her daughter and co-director Ku-Ling Siegel and with literary researcher Edward Moran to create a more extensive film that included interviews with some of the leading American poets of the late 20th century.

Documentary on Hyam Plutzik, American Poet

July 13, 2007

WVIA / NPR - Literary Historian Edward Moran speaks with Erika Funke of WVIA (NPR member station for northeastern Pennsylvania) about the documentary film Hyam Plutzik: American Poet, which premiered July 14, 2007 in Jim Thorpe, PA. Moran worked as the literary consultant on the production of the film.


Celebrating Survivors

February, 2006

The New York Sun - In February 2006, the “Partners of Hope” concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City included the world premiere of an orchestral work entitled “Of Eternity Considered as a Closed System,” a poem by Hyam Plutzik set for solo voices and chorus by composer Robert Cohen. The piece was performed by the Westfield Symphony Orchestra, as conducted by David Wroe. Also on the program were arias by Bulgarian soprano Anna Veleva and songs by David Broza, one of Israel’s leading guitarists and singers. The “Partners of Hope” concert was presented by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation to celebrate the heroic and selfless rescue efforts of the many who risked their lives to bring to safety Jews and others targeted by the Nazis for extinction. The program brought together an array of music – classical and popular, instrumental and vocal – performed by musicians from different countries, and also featured readings and personal accounts of the Holocaust. The event was chronicled in George Loomis’s New York Sun article “Celebrating Survivors.”

City Declares May 11th "Hyam Plutzik Day"

May, 2002

Currents, University of Rochester - To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Plutzik Memorial Series at the University, the City of Rochester is declaring Saturday, May 11, as Hyam Plutzik Day. In addition, the City and the University are providing special recognition to the poem “Sprig of Lilac,” written by the late Professor of English Hyam Plutzik (1911-1962), in conjunction with the beginning of this year’s Lilac Festival.

In recognition of this occasion, a special ceremony with readings and remarks by city and University officials will be held in the Welles-Brown Room of Rush Rhees Library on May 11 beginning at 2:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The Plutzik Memorial Series was established in 1962 shortly after Plutzik’s death. It is now regarded as one of America’s oldest and most prestigious literary reading programs. The Plutzik roster over the past 40 years boasts such literary luminaries as James Baldwin, Toni Cade Bambara, Robertson Davies, James Dickey, Allen Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, Anne Sexton, John Updike, and Charles Wright.

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