Friday, June 3, 2011

Gjertrud Schnackenberg (winner 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize).

Love Letter

Dear love, though I am a hopeless correspondent,
I found your letter habits lacking too
Till I received your card from H.-lulu.
It made me more-than-slightly-less despondent
To see how you transformed your ocean swim
Among dumb bubble-blowers into meters
And daffy rhymes about exotic tweeters
Beyond your balcony at 2 a.m.
I went to bed when you went to Hawaii,
And shut my eyes so tightly I saw stars,
And clenched my sheets like wadded-up memoirs
And made some noise like wah-wah-wah, i.e.,
I find your absence grimly problematic.
The days stack up like empty cardboard boxes
In ever-higher towers of cardboard
Swaying in senseless-lost-time's spooky attic.
I'll give the -atic rhyme another try.
To misconstrue the point-of-view Socratic,
Life is a painful stammered-out emphatic
Pronunciation of the word Goodbye.
Or, as it came out on the telephone,
Sooner-the-better is the way I see it:
Just say, "I guess not"; I'll reply, "So be it."
Beloved, if you throw this dog a bone,
TO readopt the stray-dog metaphor,
I'll keep my vigil till the cows come home.
You'll hear me howling over there in Rome.
I have no explanations, furthermore--
But let me say I've had it up to here
With scrutinizing the inscrutable;
The whys and how-comes of immutable
Unhesitating passion are unclear--
I don't love you because you're good at rhymes,
And not because I think you're not-so-dumb,
I don't love you because you make me come
And come and come innumerable times,
And not for your romantic overcoats,
And not because our friends all say I should,
And not because we wouldn't or we would
Be or not be at one another's throats,
And not because your accent thrills my ear--
Last night you said not "sever" but "severe,"
But then "severe" describes the act "to sever"--
I love you for no reason whatsoever.
And that's the worst, as William S. the Bard
Wrote out in black-and-white while cold-and-hot:
Reasons can be removed, but love cannot.
The comic view insists: Don't take it hard,
But every day I'm pacing up and down
The hallway till I drive my neighbors mad,
And evenings come with what-cannot-be-had
As lights blink on around this boring town,
Whence I unplug the phone and draw the shade
And drink myself half-blind and fantasize
That we're between the sheets, your brilliant eyes
Open me and, bang, we have it make--
When in reality I sit alone
And, staring at my hands, I think "I think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink"
While hating everything I've always known
About how you and I are sunk as well.
Under the aspect of eternity
The world has already ended anyway.
And, without you, my life can go to hell
On roller skates, as far as I'm concerned.
Two things are clear: these quatrains should be burned,
And love is awful, but it leads us to
Our places in the human comedy,
Frescoes of which abound in Italy.
And though I won't be sitting next to you,
I'll take my seat with minimal complaints.
May you sit in the company of saints
And intellectuals and fabulous beauties,
And not forget this constant love of Trude's.

Gjertrud Schnackenberg


Gjertrud Schnackenberg was this years International Winner of The Griffin Poetry prize for the collection “Heavenly Questions”. The Griffin prize is the world’s largest prize for a first edition single collection of poetry written in or translated into English, it was founded in the year 2000 to serve and encourage excellence in poetry­ with the aim to spark the publics imagination and to raise awareness of the crucial role poetry plays in our cultural life, as Aristotle said

“Poetry is something more philosophical and more worthy of serious attention than history.”

Gjertrud Schnackenberg (born August 27, 1953 Tacoma, Washington) is an American poet Schnackenberg graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1975. She lectured at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Washington University, and was Writer-in-Residence at Smith College and visiting fellow at St. Catherine's College, Oxford in 1997.

The Throne of Labdacus, one of Schnackenberg's six books of poetry, focuses on the myth of Oedipus and the stories of ancient Greece. In A Gilded Lapse of Time she devotes a section to the life, poetry, and death of Dante. Schnackenberg has received the Rome Prize in Creative Literature from the American Academy in Rome and the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin. She has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 1987 she received a Guggenheim grant. She has been a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1996. In 1997, she was the Christensen Visiting Fellow at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, and in 2000 she was a Visiting Scholar at the Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities. She won an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1998, and in 2001 she won the LA Times Book Prize in Poetry for The Throne of Labdacus

The Griffin trust was founded by Chairman Scott Griffin, along with Trustees Margaret Atwood, Robert Hass, Michael Ondaatje, Robin Robertson and David Young. In 2004 Carolyn Forché was named a Trustee and joined the list of internationally-acclaimed writers who sit on the board of the Griffin Trust.

An excerpt from Heavenly Questions

From The Light-Gray Soil

My fingers touch
A penny, long forgotten in my coat,
Forgotten in the shock, December eighth,
Midnight emergency, a penny swept
Together with belongings from his coat
Into a sack of “Personal Effects,”
Then locked away, then given to the “Spouse.”
Nearly relinquished, nearly overlooked.
Surely the last he touched, now briefly mine.
A token of our parting, blindly kept.
Alloy of zinc, the copper thinly clad,
Still ringing from the blow, blow of the die
That struck the faceless planchet long ago.
Struck in the “Kingdom of the Final Cause.”
Blindly my fingers touch the edge. It thins.
Worn as if one side had disadhered.
Eroded, yet its force cannot be spent.
How many hands have worn away the image.
The frail, raised inscription of the motto
Nearly intangible within the rim.
One and the Many, Many and the One.
How could I turn and say, But this is him.


“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley




If you have a Poem/ Poet, you admire please introduce them to me.


James said...

Heavenly poetry!

Bellezza said...

Wow. Of all the lines of this poem I loved, this is my favorite: "Reasons can be removed, but love cannot."

She summed up the situation perfectly.

(On a far removed note, I'm concluding the school year by reading a much beloved childhood book to my class. It's name is Gertrude Kloppenberg, Private. How interesting to me is the similarity of the two names. But there the similarity ends, of course.)

gina said...

I have never heard of The Giffin Poetry Prize. Those are some heavyhitters on the jury.
"And, without you, my life can go to hell/On roller skates, as far as I'm concerned."

Simon Quicke said...

Really like the line about 'exotic tweeters'

@parridhlantern said...

Hi James, It is, if your interested in more check out @pomesallsizes

Hello Bellezza, it's a beautiful sentiment beautifully put isn't it.Also wish my teachers were as passionate as you about their jobs, altho maybe not, as kicking against their inept lethargy probably made me more committed to this love. Still it's still a great thing to see.

Hi Gina, It's a great line isn't it, To be honest I only found it via Twitter, which is a shame, as it should have a greater presence.

HI Simon,you liking that line would be appropriate. altho not sure how exotic I am as a Cycling Dad who just happens to loves words.

Bellezza said...

"kicking against their inept lethargy" is what made me decide to become a teacher myself. Probably, despite themselves, those horrible teachers were instrutmental in forming who we are (readers and learners) today. What an irony. Although one that ultimately makes me laugh because we overcame.

Read the Book said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing this! I found your blog via Dolce Bellezza, and I will definitely be coming back! :)