From Publishers Weekly
Admired during the 1980s and 1990s for her glittering way with traditional forms, Schnackenberg (Supernatural Love) published very little for almost a decade: this sometimes heartbreaking, always ornate sixth collection will please her admirers, though it may not add to their number. Just six poems make up the whole, each one a long composition in fluent blank verse: as before, Schnackenberg bestows her gifts of diction on scientific wonderments, on the horrors of history, and on the religious and philosophical texts of the past: a pencil contains œThe vein of graphite ore preoccupied/ In microcrystalline eternity,/ In graphite's interlinking lattices : on September 11, œthe heads of drums/ Exploded outward into gaping stars/ And bloodstained towers dematerialized. That vision and others throughout the book lean on excerpts from the Bhagavad-Gita and on the Chinese classic poem from which she takes her title, as the poet seeks (but does not find) a way to explain the evil and pain in this world. Schnackenberg's husband, the philosopher Robert Nozick, died in 2002. Most of the poems (however grand their speculation) also recall the terminal illness of an unnamed beloved: œHe tugged my face to his, as if he took/ His own life in his hands... and won't let go/ Unless you leave your fingerprints on me.
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What a superb poet she is, and what a range of original sensibility, what private music, in the less well-worn emotions. (Nadine Gordimer on Gjertrud Schnackenberg)
This sometimes heartbreaking, always ornate sixth collection will please [Schnackenberg's] admirers … as before, Schnackenberg bestows her gifts of diction on scientific wonderments, on the horrors of history, and on the religious and philosophical texts of the past. (Publisher's Weekly
Schnackenberg is best known for her stunning command of prosody. She is the most accomplished master of blank verse on the planet… Her dream songs remain both impossibly intimate and formally perfect: a double monument to love and to grief. Here is the most powerful love poetry of our time (Eliza Griswold The American Prospect
Gjertrud Schnackenberg is a pillar of American poetry. (Susan Salter Reynolds The Los Angeles Times
] tell[s] a story of epic scale … This magic comes to us in a great upheaval of brilliant prosodic rule-breaking and reinvention … Reading this book is like reading the ocean, its swells and furrows, its secrets fleetingly revealed and then blown away in gusts of foam and spray or folded back into nothing but water. Heavenly Questions
demands that we come face to face with matters of mortal importance, and it does so in a wildly original music that is passionate, transporting, and heart-rending. (Judges' Citation, Griffin Poetry Prize 2011 International Shortlist
In Heavenly Questions
Schnackenberg's poems achieve a new degree of human intimacy as a result of their staggering encounter with death... It's as though the renewing faith in the power of beauty that has always animated Schnackenberg's work were itself mortally wounded; as we watch it struggle to regain its footing, we gaze more and more deeply into its striving heart. (Ann Kjellberg Little Star