Sublimation Point – Jason Schneiderman

Posted: September 27, 2007 in Poetry Endorsements
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Jason Schneiderman
“Sublimation Point”
(buy)

Good poetry has layers of meaning. Good poetry reacting to former generations of poems with meaning upon meaning, laboriously and academically assembled, will be refreshingly plain. And so the cycle goes. Masterful poetry, though, speaks volumes of meaning very simply.

According to dictionary.com, there are six overall meanings for sublimation. Each describes the goals and means of a poet. Each describes how a poem should exist, what a poem is.

Jason Schneiderman, a homosexual Jewish poet from NYC, conjures up worlds of emotion while simultaneously inducing awe for the manner in which he accomplishes this. Effortless, you’d assume so. The language is so plain, the topics (thus why I mentioned he was homosexual and Jewish) are so earthly, the effects on the reader so unmistakable. But there are six overall meanings for sublimation, and that’s only one-half of the title.

I first encountered Schneiderman when he read at The Cornerstone Cafe in Freehold, NJ. With the casual and awkward manner in which he read, any listener would have thought that he was embarrassed to be up there, but this is the essence of what he has to offer.

His poetry is personal without being gratuitously so; invasive without being unwelcome, akin to undressing before a window through which someone you want to be watching is watching; and eye-opening to those close-minded individuals who would think being gay or Jewish makes events in life felt any differently from the way heterosexual non-Jews experience them.

The poems I adore most in this particular collection are the love poems, because the love poems are often death/sickness poems, the love poems are often why-you-cling-onto-life poems, the love poems are ululations, the love poems are everything the human spirit cries out at night in dreams it desperately tries to forget by morning light. The words, the thoughts, the meanings are just so undeniably there, that it seems inhumane to not read through the entire collection and soak in all that the seemingly simple hush of the waves are whispering.

One of my favourite poems from Jason Schneiderman’s collection, printed without permission (but with all the best of advertising intentions in mind), is Thin.

Thin
How thin can you get and not die?
By choice, I mean. Or not by choice.
Some diseases make you lose weight.
Some drugs make you lose weight.
Some people get so thin
they can hide behind trees
and some people get so thin that
no one recognizes them anymore
and they just fade away into the wallpaper,
the woodwork, the bedclothes.

Sure, it’s starts off with something as light and easily palatable as death, but ending in the image of a pile of flattened bedclothes? Genius…for a few reasons: the progression from wallpaper to woodwork not only invokes the feeling of an out-of-body experience by literally guiding the reader through the walls, but it leads the reader from concrete to figurative/concrete to concrete imagery that lands an ultimate sucker-punch to even the most expecting mind. I’ll explain: wallpaper = concrete, woodwork = figurative meaning for hidden AND the actual backing of a house, bedclothes = concrete. The reader is prepared by each line for this to not be a happy poem, yet the effect of the last line, the last progression, shows not only what a mastery of imagery Schneiderman is, but how he consistently and surprisingly he one-ups expectation.

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