Author: Jessica Schneider

Jessica is a novelist and poet. Visit her Amazon Book page for a glimpse into what she's shared. Her unreleased works include several trilogies and poetic novels on religious themes. She is currently working on a poetry collection on French painters. She also runs a YouTube channel on the arts.
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A sculpture with a quote from Gwendolyn Brooks

Choosing Wisely: A Case For Gwendolyn Brooks (4 Poems)

Poetry is a fascinating art because there are so many ways to succeed (and likewise fail). As example, a Gwendolyn Brooks poem succeeds differently from that of a Yeats, Rilke or Crane. She manages to capture the ‘ordinary’ and insert it into a form or rhyme most memorable. She somewhat resembles Hazel Hall in this way. While very different poets in their own right, both Brooks and Hall tackle the average and everyday in such a way that is insightful and memorable. They both contain phrasings that ‘hook’ readers, leaving us longing for more. Kurt Vonnegut, with his spare, poetic writing of Saab dealers and Holiday Inns within Midland, Ohio—the dullest city imaginable—might be the prose equivalent.

I don’t recall the first time I read Gwendolyn Brooks, but I can say that there isn’t an instance when I didn’t know her work. (I believe I read ‘We Real Cool’ for the first time in high school.) The first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize (back when they meant something and went to writers of quality), she has since cemented herself as an important writer within American Letters. Her verse is clever and musical—wherein her poems possess great synergy. Seemingly plainspoken, yet intricate and intelligent, her verse tugs with her deft pull of words. A master of sonnets and couplets, her rhymes are natural and internal—they move with the reader.

Now, onto the poems. […]

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Jeanne in handcuffs from Robert Bresson's "The Trial of Joan of Arc"

Crossed Examination: On Robert Bresson’s “The Trial of Joan of Arc” (1962)

Few historical figures have occupied as many works as that of Jeanne d’Arc. For someone having only lived 19 years, her death in 1431 is considered both iconic and cruel—that this young, illiterate peasant girl from a small French town could somehow be summoned by angelic voices to lead the French Army in the One Hundred Years War. Even as I write this, the events within such a deeply misogynistic society seem implausible—the story of legends.

And yet, there really was a Jeanne d’Arc and the events as we’ve been told really did happen. Perhaps this is why so many have attempted to relay her tale—each imbuing themselves into whatever image one imagines. Just as there are no known images of her—no paintings, no pictures—we are faced with the dilemma of constructing our own idea of Jeanne. Just who was she?

Robert Bresson admitted in a 1962 interview with Page Cinema that he’d always been drawn to do a film about her. “An attempt to make her present,” he said. “We are kidding ourselves if we see Jeanne as the little peasant girl of the legends. I think she was very elegant. Witnesses, people around at that time said this. I see her as a modern young girl,” he added. […]

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A stylized photo of Hazel Hall

Curtains On the Wall: The Poetry of Hazel Hall

“All art is political.” Oh, yawn. Not again with the politics. Why are people occasioned to state this? Would it be any different to claim that all art is religious? That where one sees politics another sees Jesus? What would be the difference? Allow me to explain. Not about politics or religion, as that is a different essay. But rather, I immediately was reminded of Hazel Hall, a poet who has been largely overlooked, but my hope is that future readership will alter this.

Hall was not a political poet. (Nor was she particularly religious for that matter.) In fact, her poems are, on surface, easy to overlook. Many involve her love of stitching or the sound of footfalls, or even watching others walk. She is, in fact, anti-political. Why? Because she remains outside the regular clamor and din of political chatter. Spending much her life within a wheelchair, Hazel Hall is the utmost poet of observation. She sat and looked and reflected, and then wrote about it later. Who knew her? Who looked up into that window that housed this not so silent woman? Many compare her to Emily Dickinson, and there are indeed some similarities. Both engaged in reclusive lifestyles. Both wrote in a somewhat rhyming form (which you will see later), and neither longed to engage much past their private windows. Hall perhaps had more opportunity to engage others, but with so little known of her, readers can’t be sure. […]