Earnest themes delivered with jazzy wit in a new poetry chapbook by Mike Schneider
The title poem of this new chapbook from Mike Schneider situates us inside “an expanding gas / bubble from some kind of cosmic / burp” in which “We exist, hieroglyphic bird / tracks, a parade of scratch marks / on sheets of pulped cellulose / & rag, that signify what?” His “scratch marks” here signify quite a lot, in fact, embracing an entire mad world that he circumnavigates at a breathless pace, with Elvis and Dalí and Hoagie Carmichael and Tom Mix and a host of others along for the ride, companions and guides and saviors. Schneider’s language crackles with jazzy improvisation, but his wit is in the service of serious themes, nowhere more so than in his tribute to his Vietnam vet brother, “fucked / by history or whatever you want to call / this shit-hole business, that not only happens / it happened to my brother.” So, it’s personal, this brief, intense survey of the state of the world, but also universal. And at the close of the final poem, when he puts his cap back on his pen and “It makes a small click,” that click reverberates long after reading.
Mike Schneider has published poems in many literary journals and two previous poetry chapbooks. Three times nominated for the Pushcart Prize, he won the 2012 Editors Award in Poetry from The Florida Review and the 2016 Robert Phillips Prize from Texas Review Press. He began writing during the Vietnam War when, while serving at an air force base in Ohio, he published an anti- war "underground" newspaper. After three years practicing law, he studied literature and writing in graduate school. He has worked as a science writer, won awards for magazine writing, and written poetry reviews and essays on culture for several publications. With a colleague in 2010, he founded East End Poets, a group of Pittsburgh-based writers who meet to share their work. In 2017, for the Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie Mellon University, he taught the first course on Bob Dylan in Pittsburgh. He lives in that city's historic South Side neighborhood.