Jason Shinder’s Stupid Hope (2009)

Over the next few weeks or months, I will post all my reviews (“Tom’s Celebrations”) that appeared in Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose (formerly Redactions: Poetry & Poetics) up to and including issue 12. After that, my reviews appeared here (The Line Break) before appearing in the journal. This review first appeared in issue 12, which was published circa November 2009.


Jason Shinder's – Stupid HopeTwo reviews of Jason Shinder’s Stupid Hope (Graywolf Press) follow.

Review one: written in a coffee shop.

Jason Shinder has passed away and so has the hope of more beautiful poems like the ones in Stupid Hope. Yes, these poems are beautiful, like Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.” Both have extraordinary melancholy and despair amid layers of pleasure, and this is what happens with strong poems.

Stupid Hope is two stories of sickness unto death. One story is about the author’s mother, and the second is about the author. Both have brutal honesties, such as in “The Good Son”:

   If God had come to me and said,
   if you are willing to forget your self

   you will find the cure for heart attacks and compose
   the greatest symphonies,

   I wouldn’t have been sure of my answer.
   Because there wouldn’t have been enough
   attention to my suffering. And that’s unforgivable

Later in the poem the mother dies

   after months in a hospital room full of silence
   that lodged itself like a stone in her throat

   And she thought I was wonderful

   and would do anything for her.

The author is not heartless, as you will see when you read this book. He is just bluntly honest. (Also notice the craft of the last two lines. Prior to this, the poem was in couplets. Then in the last two lines the couplets break to emphasize the distance.)

Also, at times, Shinder makes images that parallel the disturbing feeling of joy in your own suffering:

   wanting to be worth the horror
   he lavishes

   wanting to be good enough
   to join his suffering
   with a little of my own.

Review two: from my post on Graywolf ’s Facebook page.

[. . .] And for you poets, it seems to be written under the emotional, empathetic, and sentimental shadow of Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish” and “To Aunt Rose.” The poetry is not like Ginsberg’s, but it is sincere like those two poems and like Ginsberg . . . and then some.//




Shinder, Jason. Stupid Hope. St. Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2009.//

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