Synopses & Reviews
One of the finest poets writing today, Grace Schulman finds a sacred radiance in vivid scenes of the city and the sea. The title of this new collection refers to Itzhak Perlman's will to play a violin concerto despite a missing string, which inspires the poet's celebration of life in its fullness and limitations. For her, song imparts endurance: Thelonious Monk evokes Creation when he snaps his fingers "as though to shape the pain into order"; John Coltrane's improvisations embody her own heart's desire to "get it right on the first take"; the wind plays a harp-shaped oak "that has been salt-bleached, cut, whipped to buckle, and has, instead, stood fast"; and her immigrant forebears remember their past by singing prayers on a ship bound for New York.
As in her previous books, Schulman juxtaposes people of different worlds to reveal their unity. "Headstones," which won the American Scholar's Phi Beta Kappa Award for the best poem of 2004, records the isolation of two outsiders, her grandfather Dave and a Montauk sachem, Wyandanch. She percieves the joy shared by Emerson, Beethoven, Turner, and a monk who inked the Bible. At a downtown intersection where churches and a synagogue stand together, the poet recalls that "music soared in quarrels, / moans, blues, calls-and-responses, hymns that rose up / together from stone."
Grace Schulman praises the day even in moments of sorrow, and finds order in art and nature that enables her to stand fast in a threatened world.
Grace Schulman, already known as "an elegiac, highly original religious lyricist" (Harold Bloom), elegantly weaves between generations and continents in her new collection.
In her seventh collection of poems, Grace Schulman masterfully emcompasses music, art, faith, and history while exploring themes of ownership. The title poem alludes to the Montauk sachem who sold land without any concept of rights to property. Schulman associates that account with the lives of her own ancestors wanderings in Eastern Europe, and, turning to the present, meditates on our own notion of ownership: “No more than geese in flight, shadowing the lawn, / cries piercing wind, do we possess these fields, / given the title, never the dominion.” She traces the illusion of rights, from land to objects, from our loves to our very selves. Alternatively, she finds permanence in art, whether in galleries or on cave walls, and music, whether in the concert hall, on the streets of New York, or in the waves at sea.
“Without a Claim
is a modern Book of Psalms. Indeed, the glory in these radiant sacred songs meld an art of high music with a nuanced love of the world unlike any weve heard before. No matter your mood upon entering this world youll soon be grateful, and enchanted. In any such house of praise, God herself must be grateful.” — Philip Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Failure
and The God of Loneliness
Grace Schulman, who has been called “a vital and permanent poet” (Harold Bloom), makes new the life she finds in other cultures and in the distant past. In Without a Claim, she masterfully encompasses music, faith, art, and history. The title poem alludes to the Montauk sachem who sold land without any concept of rights to property, and meditates on our own notion of ownership: “No more than geese in flight, shadowing the lawn, / cries piercing wind, do we possess these fields, / given the title, never the dominion.” She traces the illusion of rights, from land to objects, from our loves to our very selves. Alternatively, she finds permanence in art, whether in galleries or on cave walls, and in music, whether in the concert hall, on the streets of New York, or in the waves at sea.
Grace Schulmans fourth and Tnest collection, THE PAINTINGS OF OUR LIVES, celebrates earthly things while discovering inner lives. As THE NEW YORKER wrote of her previous book, Schulmans beautiful poems are deft and intimate without ever becoming confessional.” Here are poems of love and marriage, including a psalm for the poets anniversary and a portrayal of her parents dancing in the Depression. Moving outward, Schulman identiTes with the hungers, sorrows, and joys of Chaim Soutine, Margaret Fuller, Paul Celan, and Henry James. Prayer,” a Yom Kippur ghazal, is a vision of the unity of warring people.
The title poem embodies the perception that lifes events, though seemingly random, have an order akin to an unseen painting. In a remarkable sonnet sequence, which Marilyn Hacker has praised as an elegiac masterpiece,” Schulman confronts her mothers death by considering the rites of many cultures, including ancient ritual objects we cherish as art. She regards such concern in light of the Netherlandish painters, who gave more life to violets, their thisness caught.”
In this generous selection, Grace Schulman moves from the altering light” of earthly experience to the possibility of the miraculous. In the celebrated love poem The Present Perfect,” she sees wildflowers / poking through gravel cracks in our neighbors driveway / slender but fortunate, built to last their day,” and stanzas about an El Greco painting close with one beam that God devised, before the / sun, would have shown us the world in one glance.” Schulmans work so far evolves from a vision of unity expressed in her first collection, BURN DOWN THE ICONS. Her second book, HEMISPHERES, opens with a beautiful blessing, and has that first requisite of poetry the world comes alive in the work . . . There is nothing familiar about this poets genius” (New York Times Book Review). The selections from FOR THAT DAY ONLY contain vivid scenes of New York in the tradition of Whitman, Crane, and Moore. THE PAINTINGS OF OUR LIVES, Schulmans most recent book, includes a sonnet sequence that calls on the art of many cultures to illuminate the universality of grief. The ten new poems that complete this breathtaking volume attest to this poets gifts for her craft and for the expression of praise.
Grace Schulman's fourth collection of poetry, THE PAINTINGS OF OUR LIVES, celebrates earthly things while discovering inner lives. Here are poems of love and marriage -- including a psalm for the poet's anniversary and a portrayal of her parents dancing during the Depression -- and poems identifying with the hungers, sorrows, and joys of Chaim Soutine, Margaret Fuller, Paul Celan, and Henry James. In the final sonnet sequence, Schulman confronts her mother's death, calling on the art of many cultures to illuminate the universality of grief.
About the Author
GRACE SCHULMAN is the author many acclaimed books of poetry, including Days of Wonder: New and Selected Poems, a Library Journal Best Book of the Year. For her poetry she has received a Guggenheim fellowship, the Aiken-Taylor Award, the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award, New York Universitys Distinguished Alumni Award, and three Pushcart prizes. Schulman is a distinguished professor of English at Baruch College, CUNY. She is a former director of the Poetry Center (1978-1984) and a former poetry editor of The Nation (1971-2006).
Table of Contents
Prayer · 3 God Speaks · 5 Eves Unnaming · 6 Chaim Soutine · 8 Poem Ending with a Phrase from the Psalms · 10 Psalm for an Anniversary · 11 Balm in Gilead · 13 No Strings · 14 Carnegie Hill Birdlore · 15 Blue Dawn · 16 In the Café · 17 December · 18
American Solitude · 21 Storm Watch · 24 Young Woman Drawing, 1801 · 25 Black and White · 26 Margaret Fuller · 28 The Dancers · 30 Brooklyn Bridge · 32 Under the City · 35 Elegy Written in the Conservatory Garden · 37 Henry James Revisiting, 1904 · 40 Street Colors · 42 The Designers Notebook · 44 Mostly Mozart · 46
The Paintings of Our Lives · 49 Mosaic 1. Walking in Paris · 51 2. The Castle · 53 3. Recovery · 54 4. Naming · 55
Last Requests · 59 One Year Without Mother 1. What Can You Believe? · 61 2. The Piano · 62 3. Things · 63 4. Ceremony · 64 5. Words in the Dark · 65 6. Ring Sale · 66 7. Eagle · 67 8. The Fall · 68 9. Keeper · 69 10. A Goldsmith in His Shop · 70 11. The Lesson of a Tree · 71 12. Lamentation Scene · 72 13. Offering · 73 14. Credo · 74 15. Requiem · 75
Notes · 77