It’s rare that I choose to read poetry. Even more rare that I buy a book of poems and read it all the way through. These poems by Pat Schneider spoke to me on many levels and touched my heart. I connect with her as a writer, a mother, a seeker and a caregiver for a spouse with dementia.
how they visit
from the far-off island nations
of their lives
How they bring us shiny notions
from the future we can’t possibly surmise
How the foreign languages they speak
surprise, delight and frighten us
until we remember how we pushed them
in the swing, how they shouted, laughing,
About Pat Schneider (from the back cover):
Pat Schneider was born in the Ozark mountains of Missouri where she became intimate with fossils, creek bed grasshoppers and box turtles. After a search for work took her single mother to St. Louis, from age ten Pat lived in tenements and in an orphanage until she was given a scholarship to college. Those early experiences deeply influenced her writing, and fueled her passion for those who have been denied voice through poverty and other
Pat’s books, poetry, plays, and libretti have been praised by the most prestigious publications and authors in America: The New York Times, the Library Journal, the Atlanta Journal, Small Press Magazine, St. Louis Dispatch, the North Dakota Review, Oprah Magazine, Vanity Fair, the North Dakota Quarterly, the Kentucky Monthly, the Bellingham Review, the Louisville Times, and many others.
Peter Elbow said that Pat Schneider is “the wisest teacher of writing I know.” Julia Cameron, author of The Right to Write and The Artist’s Way, noted that Pat is “a fuse lighter. Her work is gentle, playful, brilliant, and revolutionary” and Janet Burroway, author of Writing Fiction, notes that Pat’s work is “heartening and practical, a rich variety . . . that celebrates both difference and difficulty as the gifts they are.
I have a personal connection with Pat Schneider, as she developed the Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) method of leading writing workshops. Schneider’s type of writing workshop provided a safe space for me to try out my pen in a local group. Led by Kate Hymes, herself an accomplished writer and teacher, the workshop confirmed that I was a writer. Ultimately I saw my own novels published by Handersen Publishing. (www.handersenpublishing.com www.amazon.com/author/ellisk
Schneider’s AWA method offers all people–those who consider themselves writers and those afraid to own the title–a safe, supportive workshop in which to explore. In an AWA session, the writer hears what s/he has done well, what language was strong and memorable, what stayed with the listeners. Rather than providing criticism, the AWA workshop provides encouragement. I, among many, am proof of the success of Schneider’s approach.
So I thank Pat Schneider for her teaching, and for this gem of a book in which I found many deep and elegant expressions of our common experience.
Hush. Slow down. Say the names of those
for whom your candle burns.
Say them into the attentive ear
of memory, or of God.
Oddly, now, either one will do.
You are no longer required to believe.
Receive the gift of listening. Belief
is as hard as a hickory nut
that cracked, holds many mansions.
The faces that you love are chalices.
Hush. Slow down. Tip the chalice,
sip the wine, and say it:
all whom I remember are now mine.