Blessings for the Hands
What you feel
for the sustenance
inclined to a source,
enamored of singularity,
quickly here and quickly
gone, shadow from which
the body's courage comes.
I slapped one on my leg.
Its blood glowed.
Blessings for the Hands follows various speakers—often disabled speakers, who never once figure themselves as objects of complaint or self-pity—through the haunted dreamscape of “normalcy.” Indeed, dreams are continuous presences in this unusually subtle and elegant debut collection that juxtaposes physical circumstances with the vast interior life of the imagination. The subjects of Blessings for the Hands are real and imagined confrontations—and reconciliations—between family members, friends, strangers, and animals. Matthew Schwartz’s quasi-autobiographical verse complicates and clarifies the emotions waiting just underneath the patterns and expectations of the speakers’ daylight lives, where anger, joy, corporeality, and mortality all seem to collide. For Schwartz, poetry is a sleight of hand that keeps the reader guessing through nearly imperceptible shifts between present vision and absent reality. Blessings for the Hands is a lyric reckoning of the tension between the life we are given and the life we are determined to lead.
“Blessings for the Hands is emotionally strong and imaginatively wild, distinctive, deeply moving, without an ort of self-pity, and pervaded by ‘compassion down to your fingertips’ (which Chekhov said is ‘the only method’ both to write and to live). This angle of vision is sharp enough to unify much disparate material. The poems are clear and musical and consequently a pleasure to read and reread despite their gravity. I think this may be lasting work.”—Michael Ryan
“In his acknowledgments, Matthew Schwartz offers generous thanks to his family, friends, former teachers, and writing community for their support of his creative work. I believe that we owe our thanks to Matt for his generosity, so evident in these poems. ‘The purest kindness is undriven,’ writes Schwartz, and it seems to me that this sentiment is behind what propels these poems down the page, really—these are not agenda-driven poems. Indeed, they unfold unexpectedly, veering into uncharted territory within their carefully framed constructions. Matthew Schwartz is a first-rate craftsman. These poems rise up and up.”
After Dinner, Laughing
Poem for Maya
At Family Parties, My Mother is Endlessly Social
Reminders to a Friend, to Myself
Photograph, for a Class on Perspective
My Grandparents’ Grief
The Sky Inside the Shaking Tree