Iris, Scharmel, 1889-1967

Alternative names
Birth 1889-02-10
Death 1967-07-06

Biographical notes:

Chicago poet.

Born in Italy in 1889 as Frederico Scaramella, Iris and his mother arrived in Chicago when he was three. The name Scharmel Iris was the choice of a young, hopeful poet whose first efforts were published in 1905 and who continued publishing until the 1960s. With only a small talent, but obsessed with a need to be regarded as a major American poet, Iris resorted to imposture, plagiary and forgery to concoct a fantasy role for himself as an impoverished, neglected poetic genius, deserving to be an important figure on the literary scene. One of Iris's most successful scams was to write pseudonymous letters of puffery about himself, or to solicit support and funds, under the name Vincent Holme. All his life, he was persistent in his quest for publication and attention, and he was shameless in inventing links to famous writers and artists of his day, ranging from T.S.Eliot to W.B Yeats, and Salvatore Dali to Picasso. Using several pseudonyms, Iris got poems into issues of Harriet Monroe's Poetry among other places. He proudly managed the publication of several small collections of poems, saw reviews of his work in the Chicago newspapers, forged endorsements from the well-known, and did everything he could to keep his name before the public. Having established a connection with Lewis College, a Catholic institution near Joliet, Iris used it first as his address and then as his home. He never taught there and had no faculty status, and when asked to leave in 1966, he moved to St. Patrick Retirement Hotel in Joliet, where he died in 1967. During his lifetime, how he managed to subsist on meager sales is somewhat of a mystery, although he was skilled in arousing pity and raising donations from people.

From the description of Scharmel Iris papers, 1911-1964. (Newberry Library). WorldCat record id: 585904399


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Constellation Information

Ark ID:


  • Manuscripts, American
  • Poets, American--20th century--Correspondence
  • Literary forgeries and mystifications
  • Forgers


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  • United States (as recorded)
  • Illinois--Chicago (as recorded)