The Broken String
By Grace Schulman
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780618443703, 96pp.)
Publication Date: March 2007
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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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 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 University's 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).
"[Grace Schulman] is an elegiac, highly original religious lyricist . . . The Broken String surpasses her distinguished previous work." --Harold Bloom