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Heavenly Questions: Poems by Gjertrud…
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Heavenly Questions: Poems

by Gjertrud Schnackenberg

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At last, a poet with no trace of ADD. Schnackenberg thinks, and writes, and re-writes, at the level of the page, the long poem, and the book, always thinking of the resonance of lines that will be echoed or repeated hours or days later. It reminds me of Newman's remarks in the Sonata books that a sense of large-scale form is the rarest quality among the 18th and 19th century composers he studied. It's wonderful enough that Schnackenberg has a sense of large-scale form: and the sense she has is also interesting. It involves partial or literal repetitions of images, lines, and stanzas, the sort of repetition that might once have been called incantatory, except that her sense isn't rhythmic or geometrical or symmetrical in any clear way; it's episodic, and I wonder if its real precedent might not be Whitman.

It's the form itself that keeps me reading, even though this book is also a very dramatic and affecting narrative of the death of her partner. He dies in an especially abstract poem, which -- along with passages taken from the Mahabharata -- are a little too Transcendental (again in the New England sense) to work along with the more realist, first-person narratives of the hospital, nurses, and doctors. I wonder if, in another decade, she might produce something that is more purely speculative, stripped both of the mythologizing that has preoccupied her, and also of the vestiges of confessional poetry that are interpolated throughout this book. The strongest individual passages are ones that describe single ideas or experiences: the bright light cast by a window onto a wall, which leads her to so many thoughts about death; and the hopelessness of counting grains of sand (or making sense and order from the world). I can imagine a book made only of those. ( )
1 vote JimElkins | Sep 15, 2011 |
In Heavenly Questions, the effects of rhythm and rhyme are felt less as a product of conscious pattern and more as the pedal-point of emotional bereavement and obsession. Imagination, brooding on loss—these no longer depend on form. The five-beat pulse of the lines is that of iambic pentameter, but there is no rhyme scheme, other than a broken and episodic one.
added by eereed | editSlate, Karl Kirchwey (Jan 17, 2011)
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374283079, Hardcover)

Heavenly Questions, the first new collection of poems from Gjertrud Schnackenberg since her critically acclaimed The Throne of Labdacus, finds her at the height of her talents and showcases her continued growth as an artist. In six long poems, Schnackenberg’s rhyme-rich blank verse, with its densely packed images, shifts effortlessly between the lyric and the epic, setting passion to a verbal music that is recognizably her own.

An exceptional and moving new collection from one of the most talented American poets of our time, Heavenly Questions is a work of intellectual, aesthetic, and technical innovation—and, more than that, a deeply compassionate and strikingly personal work.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:11 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Heavenly Questions, the first new collection of poems from Gjertrud Schnackenberg since her critically acclaimed The Throne of Labdacus, finds her at the height of her talents and showcases her continued growth as an artist. In six long poems, Schnackenberg's rhyme-rich blank verse, with its densely packed images, shifts effortlessly between the lyric and the epic, setting passion to a verbal music that is recognizably her own. --… (more)

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