"...[T]he tradition this young poet most significantly keeps alive in them is the great poetic tradition of wit as serious means. In such writing, wit — as the old expression has it — cuts to the quick." (Robert Pinsky for The Washington Post )
“ Sublimation Point is like a perfect pop song, making the listener glad to be alive. Jason Schneiderman doesn't strive for he wins us over with rueful plain-speaking. He has Anne Sexton's directness, Max Jacob's eye for incongruity. Tragedy enters the picture, and becomes the nowhere do these poems forget their nemesis, mortality.” (Wayne Koestenbaum)
“Grave, sweetly questioning, often irreverently funny, Jason Schneiderman's poems about love and death, the Holocaust and family history, self knowledge and self deception give this book a range and tonal variety that is extremely rare for any poet, let alone a first Schneiderman has imagined his work broadly, and executed it with great skill, passion, and intelligence.” (Tom Sleigh)
Jason Schneiderman uses science & math in his poems, which tackle love, health & illness, life & death. In the first poem in the book, "The Disease Collector," one of my favorites, he rifts on the term culture:
Odd word: culture, as though this swab cared About art and music, loved the opera, Saw the Ballet Russe when Nijinsky still bared His chest, could quote the illuminata In the original Italian. As though the petri dish Were a center of learning, and parents wished For their children to go there, like Harvard or Yale, As though a positive answer would not pale My cheeks, or force me to wholly rearrange My life around pills and doctor's visits; Force me to find old lovers and tricks, Warn that their bodies may too grow strange; To play the old game of who gave it to whom, Gently lowering voices, alone in one's room.
The poetry in his book is written in many forms, including a five crown sonnet, simply titled "Crown," that explores living with a partner infected with HIV and thus confronting death. From Section I: "God loves an expiration date/and lord knows we've got ours—"; from Section II: "Love, I'm not a huge fan of honesty,/because the truth is always/a problem"; from Section III: "It's true/that the nature of tragedies is to happen at the time/you least expect it."; from SEction IV: "Love, it's over/and it's not—I will make your past my past,/and my fight."; from Section V: "When you die, I get your heart/Because I need a piece of you/That's the way it was when you/Were alive—"
An important book in the literature based on the AIDS epidemic.
"We are all afraid of this, that when at last our genius is revealed, it will be duplicated, that upon discovering the one small thing that no one else can give to the world, that it will be given twice and we will not get credit." - Physics II: Leibniz
"Try it this way: I wanted the danger, but I wanted it safe." -The Montreal Steak House (St. Petersburg, Russia)
"Last night, love, I dreamt that you were big and I was small so small my head fit between your thumb and forefinger and you were dissecting me like a frog in Biology Class but you couldn't do it- your hands were too big and too clumsy, you kept cutting too deep, so I told you to give me the blade from the scalpel and I did it myself. I pulled back my skin layer by layer, pinning it down, meticulously labeling the organs as I placed them around me.
It didn't hurt at all, love, I swear: I didn't feel a thing. I was proud of the job I'd done; I was sure you would get an A. I liked being beautiful for you: so pale, clean, and open." - Anatomy I
"Last night, love, I found the door in your back and crawled inside.
I thought about soldiers in the Napoleonic wars who cut open their horses and crawled inside.
I never thought those soldiers were very smart.
It's a one time thing, horse belly warmth, and by morning, they'll be cold and sticky.
I came to bed after you were sleeping, and I felt your heat before I touched you.
Before I touched you I made myself small so that when I crawled inside
and rested my head on your liver, you wouldn't feel a thing." - Anatomy II
I am currently gearing up towards writing the very last page and a short edit of the epilogue of The Grey Silk Purse. As I stated in my blog I am reading poetry and writing that is very different from my own to kind of wipe away my own voice for the time being. What better way to do this than read the poetry of a gay young man from the US. I enjoyed this collection. It wasn’t as varied as I expected from reviews - being mainly about being gay - but I love his style and his voice. For instance: “...Orbits are a matter of force, or faith, the celestial conviction that the right place for a planet is precisely where it was one year ago, and you can take that to the bank.” These poems are approachable yet often profound. Favourites are “The Disease Collector”, “Moscow”, “Ancestry”, “Crown”, “III, 1990”, “V”, “Physics I: Not Matter”, “Physics II: Leibniz”, “The Unaming”, “The Surface of the Water” and my favourite - “Caliban taking his curtain call”.
Love how Schneiderman can speak to us with “rueful plain-speaking.” You can sense the tenderness he has for his love, Michael. He even uses math/science (tangible) to describe their connection (intangible). Even with his “plain-speaking”, he is able to capture the tough moments of when one feels “There was nothing / I could do. Nothing.” So heartbreakingly good.