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Gjertrud Schnackenberg was born in Tacoma, Washington, in 1953. The Throne of Labdacus (2000) received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry.

Heavenly Questions

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
2011 Winner
United States

Judges’ Citation

Throughout her career, Gjertrud Schnackenberg has been widely admired for her elegant, inventive, and musically complex prosody, her emotional decorum, and her timeless frames of reference.

Throughout her career, Gjertrud Schnackenberg has been widely admired for her elegant, inventive, and musically complex prosody, her emotional decorum, and her timeless frames of reference. Heavenly Questions is a book that has all of these qualities, yet moves far beyond them. Its six long poems tell a story of epic scale, creating a world large enough to contain Classical and Buddhist mythologies, a personal human drama of rare power, and the mathematics of physical existence (among many other things) while making them seem like entirely natural neighbors. This magic comes to us in a great upheaval of brilliant prosodic rule-breaking and reinvention. Describing these poems as blank verse heavily enriched by rhyme does not begin to describe the power of their formal realization. Reading this book is like reading the ocean, its swells and furrows, its secrets fleetingly revealed and then blown away in gusts of foam and spray or folded back into nothing but water. Heavenly Questions demands that we come face to face with matters of mortal importance, and it does so in a wildly original music that is passionate, transporting, and heart-rending.