March 2, 2021 at 7:30 pm

Lit Fest | Equilibrium and Explosiveness in the Poetry of Jason Schneiderman, March 19

By Eric Steifel

The English Department presents award-winning poet and essayist Jason Schneiderman as part of our upcoming Spring Literary Festival, where he will be in conversation and reading from his work on Thursday, March 19, at 10:30 am..

Schneiderman is the author of four books of poems: Hold Me Tight (Red Hen Press, 2020); Primary Source (Red Hen Press 2016), winner of the Benjamin Saltman Prize; Striking Surface (Ashland Poetry Press 2010), winner of the Richard Snyder Prize; and Sublimation Point (Four Way Books 2004), a Stahlecker Selection. He edited the anthology Queer: A Reader for Writers (Oxford University Press 2015). His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including American Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry, Poetry London, Grand Street, The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, Story Quarterly, and Tin House. He has received fellowships from Yaddo, The Fine Arts Work Center, and The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He was the recipient of the Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America in 2004, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award in 2011. He is Poetry Editor of the Bellevue Literary Review, and Associate Editor of Painted Bride Quarterly. He is an Associate Professor of English at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York.

In an interview published in The Brooklyn Rail about his newest collection, Hold Me Tight, Schneiderman writes: “What unifies the book for me is that each section is really about what it means to live together. I thought that in the early days of the coronavirus, we would begin to see the powerful interdependence of humanity… for me, the central concern of the book is that you can’t get away from the way that humans need each other and you can’t get away from the ways that humans do violence to each other.”

It is this attention to human interdependence and the violence humans inflict on one another that drives Hold Me Tight’s five sequenced sections, confronting everything from recent armed protests to the digitalization of information and media to the Pulse nightclub shooting. With its awareness of the zeitgeist, Hold Me Tight tries to find balance between peace and the chaos and destruction of the modern world. In the same interview with The Brooklyn Rail, Schneiderman continues: “Equilibrium is finding a way to live with the fact that life keeps going, but that it will also end. Equilibrium is not falling over. Peace is harder. Peace is so much harder.”

When we read his work, it becomes clear that Schneiderman has the voice to attempt such a task; his poems range from the conversational to the experimental, from the scientific to the interpersonal, from the world of today to antiquity, mythology, and beyond. Readers of his will quickly find a deft but accessible tongue and a generous depth of character, as each poem fits as a piece into a puzzle that one might use to make sense of the world. Perhaps, a voice like Schneiderman’s is exactly what we need today, and we’re thrilled to have him as part of Spring Literary Festival.

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