Philip Schultz, The Poet & His Dyslexia

Philip Schultz

Host Francesca Rheannon spends the hour with poet Philip Schultz talking about his poetry, his method of teaching writing — and his dyslexia. His latest book is THE GOD OF LONELINESS.
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Philip Schultz won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for his book about his father, Failure. Ironically, that book, published when Schultz was 63, brought him a measure of success and fame that had eluded him throughout decades of writing verse, including five previous volumes of poetry. His new collection of poems, The God of Loneliness, brings together poems written across the span of those decades, from 1978 through 2009.

Schultz’s themes center around family, especially the immigrant Jewish family he grew up in in Rochester, New York. His larger than life father — who held the record in New York for the most failed businesses, Schultz claims — is a major inspiration. But so are his grandmother with her acerbic pronouncements on life, his Uncle Jake, who dreamed big while running the projector at a local movie theater, and, perhaps his best-loved character, his guardian angel Stein. [amazon-product align=”center”]0156031280[/amazon-product]

But Schultz has a new inspiration for his writing these days, and he’s expressing it for the first time not in poetry, but in memoir. It’s his dyslexia, which he discovered when one of his own children was diagnosed with the learning disability. He’s much engaged in writing the memoir now, entitled My Dyslexia — it will be published by Norton Press.

Philip Schultz is the founder of The Writers Studio, which teaches fiction and poetry. In addition to The God of Loneliness, he’s also the author of Like Wings (Viking Penguin, 1978), Deep Within the Ravine (Viking Penguin, 1984), My Guardian Angel Stein (State Street Press, 1986), The Holy Worm of Praise (Harcourt, 2002), Living in the Past (Harcourt, 2004), and Failure (Harcourt, 2007).

Poems by Philip Schultz
The God of Loneliness


About Francesca Rheannon

Francesca Rheannon is an award-winning independent radio producer. In addition to hosting Writer's Voice, she's a freelance reporter for National Public Radio and its affiliates. Recipient of the prestigious Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for reporting on substance abuse issues for her news series, VOICES OF HIV, produced for 88.5 WFCR public radio in western Massachusetts. She is also finishing a book on Provence (PROVINCE OF THE HEART) and working on a memoir of her father, THE ARGONAUTS.

6 thoughts on “Philip Schultz, The Poet & His Dyslexia

  1. Philip,

    What a shock to read your poem in the Oct. 25 N. Yorker. You, of all people, applying for Medicare. Ah, sure, and weren’t it just yesterday that we got the shit kicked out of us.

    Contgraulations on the Puliziter. All that money. No failure this time.

    Molte cose buone


  2. Dear Mr.Schultz
    I heard your interview yesterday on public radio. I am also dyslexic and have written my story “The Runaway Learning Machine”. Would you be interested in exchanging books? My book has also been written in a play and debuted in the Minneapolis area 2005 and was performed in London 2007 by a small theater group. I could identify with you completely during your interview. Similar experiences, approximately the same time.
    James Bauer

  3. Dear Phillip (and James),

    Thx for taking the time to write about dyslexia…its important for others to know what could be happening to their own children or for educators who wish to do a better job of working with learning disabled. Perhaps more important is that we tend to build confidence as individuals when we see that others have overcome the odds and perhaps we may too (naturally this is true from cancer survival to dyslexia and beyond, but somebody has to write candidly about it).

    I too suffered as a child and still battle with dyslexia in reading and writing but also with hearing words and numbers as well as seeing them or similar items. Some of that may have to do with have full body Tourette’s and intense OCD, but like you guys, I made something out of it.

    It took me five years to write a book about it (not published) but my guess is that books like your and hopefully others, (perhaps mine one day) will help others.

    Looking forward to reading both of yours.

    Very Sincerely,


    PS hear the interview on NPR when out in NM at my offices there, on the 25th of SEP.

    PPS I somehow made it through chef’s School in NY, worked for President Ford, and joined Army Special Operations, served in combat as a sniper (of all the positions I could end up with) and now I’ve grown a national construction company that hires disabled veterans…though I still cant read much, swear a lot with Tourette’s, as I twitch like a recovering drug addict with onlookers considering whether I’m on drugs or mentally deranged, yet I keep pushing on.

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