In Conversation With . . . Jacob Scheier, Part II

?Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season??
– ?Reluctance,? by Robert Frost (19-24)

Jacob Scheier is a writer of essays, poems, and journalism. His first book of poems, More to Keep Us Warm, won the 2008 Governor General’s Award for poetry. He’s Canadian by birth, but only because when his mother was pregnant his American parents, on returning from an activist mission in Palestine, were not allowed to re-enter the United States.

His poetic landscape is made up of memories of New York, Jewish culture and history, his family’s radical communism, and the tragedy of his mother’s early death in 2000. (His most recent book, Letter From Brooklyn, was just recommended here in “The Mindful Bard”.)

Recently Jacob took the time to answer Wanda Waterman’s questions about poetry schools, his writing workshops, and the journey of grief.

I don’t Care to Belong to Any Poetry School That Will Have Me as a Member

When asked if he feels as if he belongs to any particular school of poetry, Scheier admits that though his writing is influenced by some schools, notably the New York School and the Confessional Poets, he’s not at ease with the idea of belonging to one.

?I am not sure I would want to be part of a school that would have me as a member,? he says, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. ?I am kind of serious about that. Schools of art have a protectionist, exclusionary quality that doesn’t sit comfortably with how I see the role of the artist.

“I feel much more comfortable borrowing from other poetics than defining myself within a particular poetic (which is then understood in opposition to some other poetic or school of poetics).?

Writing Through Loss

The early loss of his mother compelled Jacob to seek creative ways of dealing with shattering experiences. His own journey prepared him to guide others through loss; in addition to allowing the grieving process to inform his poetry, Jacob taught a course called ?Writing Creatively About Grief? through Ryerson University’s Continuing Education and trained to become a volunteer peer facilitator of support groups for bereaved young adults.

?Certainly my workshops on writing creatively about grief are very much intertwined with my own creative work,? he observes. ?My first collection, More to Keep us Warm, was very engaged with the loss of my mother, who died when I was twenty.

“This was and remains a life-defining experience for me, and two of the ways I processed it were through writing and through, firstly, joining a support group and then, later, becoming a volunteer peer-facilitator of supports groups for bereaved young adults. So, the grief writing workshops were a kind of natural extension of my writing practice, teaching, and group facilitation experience.

The Rich Experience of Grief

When asked if he believes that healing from grief is possible, Jacob replies, ?I don’t feel professionally qualified to answer that question in the general sense. I will say in my own case?speaking of my own experience of loss?that I don’t expect to experience what I think of as healing.

?If by ?healing? we are talking about a kind of closure, of having finally ?dealt? with the experience, then definitely not. My relationship with my mother, the loss, and my own grief has certainly changed a lot over the last fourteen years. I don’t think grief has an ending, and in a way that makes it a very rich experience.?

On the Horizon

?Right now I am mostly working on creative nonfiction. More specifically, I am working on a collection of personal essays, which in some shape or form engage my secular Jewish identify and my radical upbringing.

?In spring 2015 I will be a resident at The Pierre Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon, where I will be working on what I conceptualize as a fairly lengthy hybrid work of journalism and memoir about being a Jewish person in places with virtually no Jewish population.?

(To learn more about Jacob Scheier’s workshops on writing creatively about grief, visit http://www.jacobscheier.org.)

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