Schneider, Peter: In the Field of Unintended Consequences

Schneider, Peter. In the Field of Unintended Consequences. PB&J Books, 2022, 100 pp.

Two long, rangy, allusive poems, “Wild Chervil” and “Gingko and footnotes,” frame Peter Schneider’s excellent full-length collection In the Field of Unintended Consequences. Both poems blend physical description, scientific fact, environmental consciousness, and Eastern and Western philosophy in mostly unpunctuated, rarely enjambed free verse that, to my ear, uses human breathing to determine its line lengths. Here’s a stanza from “Wild Chervil”:

And isn’t it the same deal
with mental weeds
the word-and-thought chervils
ah, disingenuous me
on my black zazen cushion
plucking out what always comes back

And this, from “Gingko and footnotes”:

*gingko. . .
just living its life
private in public
like this room of yellow light
and books suspended
in the organic mechanism
of the city

These excerpts also display Schneider’s skill with using metaphor to connect and extend his ruminations. Similar skills and techniques are evident in the book’s other ten poems: the nine-part “Quilted Pillows” employs as a controlling metaphor certain microbes from the Ediacaran Period (which occurred five or six million years ago, according to my Google search); “Openings” is a fourteen-part poem mixing the physical and the metaphysical; “Black Garnet” presents a clever metaphor for the workings of language and the mind; “China” blends memory and Eastern philosophy; “Springs” travels “from Spain to Macedonia”; the twelve-part “From the Book of Numinous Dreams” is just that; “Letter to Space” and “Everywhere men speak in whispers” ponder the imagined end of our planet; “The Coraçon Function” deftly employs a heart metaphor; and “Philosophy Library” ends beautifully with “there is no good reason / why things matter / just that they do.”

–Tom Zimmerman,
19 February 2023