Timed to coincide with the publication of The Throne of Labdacus (p. 847), Schnackenberg’s first collection in eight years puts back in print her first three books of verse: Portraits and Elegies (1982), The Lamplit Answer (1985) and A Gilded Lapse of Time (1992). One of the best of the New Formalists, Schnackenberg is impressive from the very start in her achievement, both of which are considerable. Her manipulation of rhyme and meter is deft and confident even in the earliest poems contained herein, particularly in the opening cycle about her father’s premature death, written in 1977 when she was only 24. With the passage of time, however, the author’s work becomes increasingly dense and complex—indeed, some may find the poems of Gilded Lapse almost choked by their own metric and linguistic intricacies. She is remarkably ambitious throughout her first three works, attempting longer forms and larger themes in each. But there is a terrible melancholy running through all of her poetry that threatens to overwhelm every other feeling, a sense of the excruciating evanescence of human endeavor and emotion. The best poems contained herein convey that painfully and with startling immediacy. Schnackenberg may, at other times, seem emotionally distant, but she is never glib, and her interest in longer poems and cycles sets her apart from the majority of contemporary poets in a very satisfying and exciting way.
A true portrait (warts and all) of a great poet.