by Idra Novey

Poems As A Lens On Life

A Full Range Of Luminous Poets, New And Familiar

In 1995, Itzhak Perlman finished a New York performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with a broken string. Poet Grace Schulman came across the story of Perlman’s perseverance in the Houston Chronicle and found the anecdote worthy not only of a poem but a theme for an entire book. The Broken String (Houghton Mifflin, $22), Schulman’s sixth collection, is the numinous result. Throughout the book, Schulman explores the relationship between music and endurance. In “Kol Nidrei, September 2001,” she writes of chanting Kol Nidrei 16 days after the attacks of September 11th. Later in the book, she writes of hearing bells, “those pebbly ones that top scrolls in the ark.” The poem then moves into the history of a synagogue on Central Park that contains scrolls saved from a ruined temple, paired with a memory of standing at age 13 before the blurred letters of an aged Torah scroll. To unite these various experiences, Schulman returns to the silver bells, heard “through doors of a massive building/whose ark is curtained shut.” Here as in other poems, Schulman delicately moves from a story of perseverance to a lyrical meditation on faith, confirming her status as one of the lasting poets of her generation.

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