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This review is taken from PN Review 179, Volume 34 Number 3, January - February 2008.

SOMETHING BORROWED GRACE SCHULMAN, The Broken String (Houghton Mifflin Company) $22.00.

Grace Schulman is a well published, well honoured poet who writes carefully polished and crafted poems that have had all the life squeezed out of them by the poet's studied carefulness. There is nothing wrong with craft or care, of course, but her poems are so dutiful and unsurprising - so uninvolving - that they begin to resemble little, airless neo-Victorian drawing rooms in a museum exhibition.

A typical Schulman poem describes someone else's performance and then gives her reaction to it. For instance, 'Blue in Green' describes how 'on tenor sax, John Coltrane fills the blues/with mournful chords on scales older than Jubal's,//ending in air'. Or pianist Bill Evans: 'I Loves You, Porgy. Sundays at the Vanguard/he soloed, improvised - his test that starved/nameless fear.' Or 'Art Tatum at the Gee-Haw Stables': 'Hands flew across the keys like osprey wings/in high wind./Solo flight. He played alone//and cursed blurred sight, quicksilver notes unblurred.' Or, moving to artists, 'Turner, who saw mud rivers shine in fog,/hunched in a cellar and one day a week/flung open pine shutters and cried: "What jewels!"' Or

Soutine created light
at the heart of dread
by dragging a steer's carcass
up to his rooms in Paris.


If she mentions apples she gives them a Cézanne tag. She describes Delacroix creating the fresco at St Sulpice, or what's going on in Dutch genre paintings or 'How rain lashes Hart Crane's house'.

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