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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry

The Lamplit Answer

Gjertrud Schnackenberg

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To purchase The Lamplit Answer

Title: The Lamplit Answer
Author: Gjertrud Schnackenberg
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1985
Length: 71 pages
Availability: in Supernatural Love: Poems 1976-1992 - US
in Supernatural Love: Poems 1976-2000 - UK
  • The Lamplit Answer is also included in both the British and the American edition of Supernatural Love (see our review)

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Our Assessment:

B+ : interesting variety and ideas, some very good pieces

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Antioch Review . Summer/2001 Carol Moldaw
The New Criterion . 10/1985 Robert Richman
The New Republic . 12/11/2001 Glyn Maxwell
The NY Rev. of Books . 29/3/2001 Daniel Mendelsohn
The NY Times Book Rev. . 29/10/2000 Adam Kirsch
Poetry . 11/2001 Christian Wiman
TLS . 8/2/2002 Ruth Fainlight

  From the Reviews:
  • "The lines are slightly plainer than before, more patient, more intelligently withholding, but the book shows the poet already sailing outwards into uncharted waters." - Glyn Maxwell, The New Republic

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Lamplit Answer includes several longer poems. The first is a Chopin sequence, Kremlin of Smoke -- the pianist in sad exile, remembering Warsaw in 1820 (when he was a ten year-old child), and contrasting it with the just sacked-Warsaw of 1831 that he will never return to.
       The longest poem is "Imaginary Prisons", described as "a version of 'Sleeping Beauty'". Hardly fairy-tale like, Schnackenberg does show how she reinvent such familiar material; it is an interesting experiment.
       The best of the longer lot is "Sonata", a musical-philosophical sequence that playfully mocks awareness of the interplay between form and content ("It's now time for the Recapitulation", etc.).
       Among the other poems, "Supernatural Love" stands out, returning again to the father-figure, the poem a memory from infant-age that begins:

My father at the dictionary-stand
Touches the page to fully understand
The lamplit answer
       In many of these poems the short lines, the often relatively simple expression make for a deceptive appearance -- poems without trappings, it sometimes seems. The pieces appear so simple, yet the whole is a complex structure.
       The approach doesn't always work. "Paper Cities" functions, finally, as a whole, but it's beginning, for example, hardly convinces:
The radio glimmers,
Cities alight in my room
Among cities of books
Stacked in towers.
Each book is a room.
       Still, there are few poems which don't impress on some level -- including "The Heavenly Feast", dedicated to (and about) Simone Weil, or even the straightforward "Advent Calendar".

       It's an odd collection, of very various pieces, Schnackenberg here perhaps still trying to figure out what she is capable of. Much impresses, though it doesn't entirely convince.

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Reviews: Other books by Gjertrud Schnackenberg under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Poetry under review

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About the Author:

       American poet Gjertrud Schnackenberg was born in 1953. She has won many awards, fellowships, and grants.

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