Robin Beth Schaer

Robin Beth Schaer (Poetry) | Brooklyn, NY

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Robin Beth Schaer’s first book of poetry, Shipbreaking, received the Robert Dana–Anhinga Poetry Prize and was published in 2015. She was educated at Colgate University and Columbia University’s School of the Arts. She has received fellowships from Yaddo, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Saltonstall Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Bomb Magazine, Paris Review, Denver Quarterly, Washington Square, and Guernica, among others. She teaches writing at Cooper Union and The New School in New York City, and worked as a deckhand aboard the Tall Ship Bounty, a 180-foot full-rigged ship lost in Hurricane Sandy. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the fiction writer Anthony Tognazzini, and their son.


Shipbreaking (Anhinga, 2015). Robert Dana-Anhinga Prize.
Shipbreaking (Anhinga, 2015). Robert Dana-Anhinga Prize.

Press & Reviews

Shipbreaking was chosen as of BuzzFeed’s “16 Best Poetry Books” and “24 Best Literary Debuts” of 2015. It was also listed as one of The Millions “Most Anticipated Books” and 35 Over 35’s “Best Debuts” of 2015.

“Some poets play the spoons, but Schaer plays the knives. Her words are not so much written as carved, her lines not so much offerings as incisions … Schaer has given us the world in this debut: the sea and the sky and the many islands of desire spread between them. She has plumbed our dual human yearnings for escape and return, love as liberation and love as captivity.”
The Rumpus

“‘Love is haywire’ Robin Beth Schaer writes in one of her passionate lyrics; love for ‘my consort, my lovely undoing,’ and for the seagoing vessels that haunt these lines, and for a young son whose future depends on the fate of another beloved, this world in which ‘under the city / aquifer fills with seawater / slowly drawing the avenues down.’ Schaer’s language and her passion operate under the increasingly inescapable pressure of limit, and the result is something beautiful and broken, like this moment.”
—Mark Doty

Shipbreaking’s ultra-taut lines urge departure, a kind of experiential upsweep. And they keen just as convincingly toward the steady grounding of land, home and the embrace of the beloved as they do toward the wind-racked surface and unknowable depths of the sea—constants in Schaer’s mythology, which foster “that skyward longing, to be untethered.’”
—Tracy K. Smith

“To read Robin Beth Schaer’s Shipbreaking is to know a body: its grave intimacy and intense delight. Its muscles and eyelashes, its shadows that make for instant dawns. The intelligence of Schaer’s lines humbles me. I am seduced utterly. Please join me beneath the waters of these poems, for here the mermaids speak to us each to each: candidly, cannily. Hand your heart over to this most stunning debut.”
—Cate Marvin

“Robin Beth Schaer’s Shipbreaking offers both catalogue and hymn. Swooping between the history of human flight and the upsurges of continents, between the migrations of birds and the igniting of love, Schaer toggles between the cosmic and the intimate, brilliantly weaving a tapestry of gorgeous, sometimes painful, interconnectness. Schaer is alert both to the rawness of the elements and the work of human hands. Her poetry charts a natural history which includes us, but not only us. The child unfurling in the womb, the city flooded in storm, the ship lost at sea: Schaer registers all with a striking combination of gorgeous gaud and stark specificity. Her poems conduct the materiality of this world, its ‘kevlar, duct tape, / and prayer,’ its bees, coelacanths, and human infants; the constellations beyond and the power of the seas. This Robin both soars and sings the ‘shoaled world.’”
—Maureen McLane

Shipbreaking is a stunning book about being awake. Robin Beth Schaer spins her readers through the wires, storms, and electricity between us — with great precision of language and line. This is the voice of an explorer, a speaker of wild courage. ‘Love / is haywire,’ she says, ‘Current is the cure / for both a stopped heart and one that beats / too much.’ Brimming with recognition of conditions both human and otherworldly, Schaer speaks as guide and messenger, creating a ‘…spark…in a great loneliness.’ This is a moving, necessary book.”
—Jan Beatty

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