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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry

A Gilded Lapse of Time

Gjertrud Schnackenberg

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To purchase A Gilded Lapse of Time

Title: A Gilded Lapse of Time
Author: Gjertrud Schnackenberg
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1992
Length: 128 pages
Availability: A Gilded Lapse of Time - US
in Supernatural Love: Poems 1976-1992 - US
in Supernatural Love: Poems 1976-2000 - UK
  • A Gilded Lapse of Time is also included in both the British and the American edition of Supernatural Love (see our review)

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Our Assessment:

B+ : often very good but terribly referential

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Antioch Review . Fall/1993 Daniel McGuiness
Antioch Review . Summer/2001 Carol Moldaw
The New Criterion . 2/1993 Robert Richman
The New Republic . 12/11/2001 Glyn Maxwell
The New Republic A 13/9/1993 Rosanna Warren
The NY Rev. of Books . 29/3/2001 Daniel Mendelsohn
The NY Times Book Rev. . 15/11/1992 William Logan
The NY Times Book Rev. . 29/10/2000 Adam Kirsch
Poetry . 11/2001 Christian Wiman
TLS A 8/2/2002 Ruth Fainlight

  Review Consensus:


  From the Reviews:
  • "Here's a book for people who don't exist anymore. It would have been a bestseller in the Renaissance. (...) These are poems of terrific intelligence, terrific belief, terrific technique, terrific learning, But we also know what the hitch always is: are we too terrified to afford their kind of comfort, too sick of the trees to see the forest that ails us ?" - Daniel McGuiness, Antioch Review

  • "In the magnitude and the intricacy of its design, A Gilded Lapse of Time may be compared to the art of tapestry. Whether woven or stitched, tapestry suggests a work whose complexity and tensile strength subordinate many disparate elements to one masterful order. Schnackenberg's poems on the whole display that tensile strength; as for the principle of subordination, she has practically made it her trademark, both in the metaphysical structuring of images and in extended syntactic hierarchies." - Rosanna Warren, The New Republic

  • "It is extremely allusive, in that it rarely steps far without the clank of footnotes. Yet it is more difficult and more ambitious than what went before. (...) Whether in homage or in fear or in uncertainty, she seems to have approached A Gilded Lapse of Time almost mute with reverence. She relinquishes rhyme at the outer gate. The forms in which she has attained such facility, the pentameters and the tetrameters, are beaten out into a miscellaneous, often awkward jumble of lengths." - Glyn Maxwell, The New Republic

  • "The opulent language and the range of reference of these meditations on paintings, Dante, and Byzantine ruins in Ravenna, as well as a long tribute and elegy to Osip Mandelstam, placed her among the best poets writing." - Ruth Fainlight, Times Literary Supplement

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:

       A Gilded Lapse of Time is Schnackenberg's longest and most ambitious collection to date.
       The long title-sequence (some forty pages) visits Italy and considers Dante. It is a poem of homage and pilgrimage (Ravenna and its mosaics at the centre), immersed completely in that time. Schnackenberg still displays a light touch, even with this weighty material, but the references are often remarkable in their obscurity as Schnackenberg delves deep into these territories. Endnotes (!) aid in determining where she is coming from. There's a great deal of Biblical quotation and appropriation, but other sources still defeat the reader: "The speculation that the concentric spheres must exist is quoted from Theon of Smyrna, Expositio rerum mathematicarum ad legendum Platonem utilium."
       There are some fine touches here -- from the echo of the title in "a gilded apse the celestial globe" to many of the small images along the way. 11. At Dante's Tomb in particular impresses. The god-centred focus, and "the guilt of poetry", are perhaps appropriate but not entirely a success. Still, overall, a sequence of considerable power.
       In the second part of the collection, "Crux of Radiance", religion continues to figure prominently -- as titles such as "Annunciation", "Angels Grieving over the Dead Christ", and "Christ Dead" might suggest. Much of Schnackenberg's interest is historical, as well as in showing the refraction of history through the personal: "Christ Dead", for example, focusses on the painter Andrea Mantegna.
       The third part, "A Monument in Utopia", centres around Osip Mandelstam, using biographical facts and pieces from his oeuvre in this homage. Here she re-imagines history (and the measure of history) -- "If I could begin again" ... --, suggesting a utopia to counter history (yet reluctant to let it all go). Again: an impressive sequence.

       Steeped in history, dripping with allusion -- and yet still constantly skipping along with an ever-so light touch (short lines, an accessible vocabulary), Schnackenberg's poems are an odd mix. She doesn't always find the proper balance -- some of the lines cry out for more exposition, some of the word-choices ring wrong -- but almost all of it is of interest. The religiously-focussed poems seem least successful, but many of the historical touches impress. As does her feel for language.
       An interesting, occasionally frustrating collection.

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A Gilded Lapse of Time: 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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© 2002-2010 the complete review

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