Gjertrud Schnackenberg Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

In addition to her poetry, Gjertrud Schnackenberg (SHNAH-kehn-burg) has produced two nonpoetic works of note: a study on T. S. Eliot’s “Marina” published in the Yale Review in 1989 and a 1990 essay on the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Colossians, part of a collection of essays written by contemporary poets on the New Testament.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Even before she graduated from Mount Holyoke College summa cum laude in 1975, Gjertrud Schnackenberg had begun winning recognition for her writing. In 1973 and 1974, she was presented the Glascock Award for poetry, a considerable accomplishment, since earlier winners had included Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, and James Merrill. In 1982, the year of publication of her first book, Schnackenberg received the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets. That same year, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters presented her with the Rome Prize in Literature. With this and an Amy Lowell Traveling Prize for 1984-1985, she was able to spend two years in Italy, absorbing the classical heritage that would figure so prominently in her writings. During this period, Schnackenberg became closely connected with the poetic movement known as New Formalism, which brought greater attention to traditional devices such as regular rhythm and meter and the use of rhyme schemes (often elaborate) and literary allusions, especially to the “great tradition” of Western culture.

For Schnackenberg, honors and awards continued. In 1984, she won the Bernard F. Connors Prize for Poetry from The Paris Review for “Imaginary Prisons.” Mount Holyoke awarded her an honorary doctorate in 1985. Radcliffe College’s Bunting Institute presented her with a poetry fellowship, as did the Ingram Merrill Foundation. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded her a grant in 1986-1987, and she was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1987-1988. In 2000, she won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for poetry for The Throne of Labdacus.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Fry, Paul H. “The Lamplit Answer? Gjertrud Schnackenberg’s Antiekphrases.” In In the Frame: Women’s Ekphrastic Poetry from Marianne Moore to Susan Wheeler, edited by Jane Hedley, Nick Halpern, and Willard Spiegelman. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 2009. Discusses Schnackenberg’s poetry, in particular The Lamplit Answer.

Gregerson, Linda. “Eight Women Poets (Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver, Celia Gilbert, Gjertrud Schnackenberg, Susan Ticky, Erica Funkhouser, Mekeel McBride, Rita Dove).” In Negative Capability: Contemporary American Poetry. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001. Discusses Schnackenberg along with seven other women poets, comparing and contrasting them.

Kelly, David, ed. Poetry for Students. Vol. 25. Detroit: Thomson/Gale, 2007. Analyzes Schnackenberg’s “Supernatural Love.” Contains the poem, summary, themes, style, historical context, critical overview, and criticism. Includes bibliography and index. Volume 13 of this series, edited by Elizabeth Thomason and published in 2001, contained an analysis of “Darwin in 1881.”

Logan, William. “The Habits of Their Habitats (Amy Clampitt and Gjertrud Schnackenberg).” In Reputations of the Tongue: On Poets and Poetry. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999. Logan includes this chapter on Clampitt and Schnackenberg in his chronological progression through poetry in much of the twentieth century.

Mendelsohn, Daniel. “Breaking Out.” The New York Review of Books 48, no. 5 (March 29, 2001): 38-40. A perceptive overview of Schnackenberg’s work and accomplishments. Mendelsohn places Schnackenberg’s poetry within the context of classical literature, as her frequent use of Greek and Roman allusions and references requires. He presents a convincing argument that Schnackenberg uses classical literature to present “the immanence of the divine in human history, the meaning of moral responsibility, the nature and limits of art itself.”

Parini, Jay, ed. American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies—Supplement XV, Woody Allen to C. D. Wright. New York: Scribner’s, 2006. Contains a short biography of Schnackenberg that examines her poetry.

Warren, Rosanne. “Visitations.” The New Republic 209 (September 13, 1996): 37-41. Warren examines the intricacies and interwoven themes of Schnackenberg’s poetry and concludes that the complexity of form echoes the multiplicity of meaning and feeling. “In the magnitude and the intricacy of its design, A Gilded Lapse of Time may be compared to the art of the tapestry.” Warren applauds Schnackenberg for taking the lyric of personal anecdote and setting in the light of more general life and history.