In Suicides and Jazzers, Hayden Carruth reveals as never before the hard experiences that have shaped his life and art. In the lead essay, entitled "Suicide," he speaks of the psychiatric illness he has lived with for most of his life and his attempted suicide in 1988. In "Fragments of Autobiography," he shares memories of a Connecticut childhood, early ruminations about death, and his coming-of-age in small-town America.
A major essay on the poetry of Paul Goodman is followed by shorter essays on Wallace Stevens, Emily Dickinson, Donald Hall, and Carolyn Kizer. In sections entitled "Elegies," "Reviews," and "Musical" Carruth celebrates fine writers and musicians who he feels have been intentionally neglected by the establishment, including authors Grace Paley and David Ignatow, tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, and, in "The Spun-Off Independent Dead-End Ten-Star Blast," white jazz musicians.