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Heavenly Questions: Poems Hardcover – October 12, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374283079
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374283070
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.5 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #567,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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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Review

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)

[Heavenly Questions] 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)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Bruce B Anderson on December 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If you're weary for a while of slams, bashes, -a-thons & the like, take up Schnackenberg's "Heavenly Questions". Best read at a single sitting, these few ample poems offer the whispered solace of incantation against loss, grief, rage, & the horrors of history ancient & current. Here again we are reminded of the lineage of poetry written in English, the frayed but inescapable fabric of the iambic line, the grace possible in long persistent effort. Here again is the "intelligence of love".
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By Frances Haas on January 20, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This poet was able to express how the death of her husband occurred and to do him justice as a beloved person. The setting is the hospital where he died after several operations. She describes the process of mental resistance, the recurring hope, the longing for a better outcome. It is a very spiritual account, but does not sugar coat the harshness of separation and how her mind kept bargaining. At the last she staggers from the hospital and sinks into a telephone booth. There she looks up her husband's name, still among the living. This is the best poetical account of the death of a loved one that I've ever read. She did not write it right away. There are several years between his death and this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wide-ranging, all-embracing epic/lyric on life, death, meaning and love by a great poet. One of her most accessible yet profound works.
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By Mark J. Wilson on September 29, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hypnotic imagery and narrative .....make this an enjoyable journey
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By Irene R. on October 28, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Beautiful, moving, brilliant poems.
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