Poet Spotlight: Pat Schneider

This is part of a series highlighting some of the poets anthologized in Poetry of Presence. We thank the poets for providing the material. Today we shine the spotlight on Pat Schneider.


meme pat schneider

Short Bio: I’m a poet, playwright, librettist, and the author of ten books. My titles include How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice and Writing Alone & With Others (both from Oxford University Press) and five books of poems. Founder of Amherst Writers & Artists, for thirty years I was adjunct faculty at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. Forthcoming is a new book of poems, The Weight of Love. 

Thoughts on mindfulness and poetry: Poetry slows us down, brings us into ourselves.  Poetry is of the body.  In my forthcoming book of poems, The Weight of Love, there is a poem titled “It Takes a Long, Deep Listening.” The poem includes these lines: “. . .listen/ between iambs of breath/ to the pentameter of the heart. ” A note at the back of the book says, “This is a reference to the assertion by Peter Viereck, Poet and Nobel Laureate:  ` . . . poetry is your most physical expression. Its basic throb is your body throb.’ He was fond of pointing out that the human heart beats five beats to every breath, and the pattern of iambic pentameter is five beats to every line.”

A fact (not so funny, but I think interesting) about myself: I wrote my first poem at age ten. At eleven, as she was putting me in an orphanage, my mother gave me a little five-year diary with tiny spaces to write in every day. I kept going over the lines, writing in many spaces at once. She gave me my life of writing.

Another (more jolly) fact about myself: I was born in 1934. Around then, rhyme fell out of fashion in poetry, and through almost all of my long life, poetry was not supposed to rhyme. Robert Frost in America, and Patrick Kavanagh in Ireland, who used rhyme, were both looked down upon as “farmer poets.” But a few decades ago, something changed all that: RAP!! And the little White boys and girls who were trying to sound like the little Black boys and girls? All of them, Black and White, are in MFA programs, writing rhyme! And Kay Ryan, whose poems are full of internal rhyme, near rhyme, full rhyme, but not end rhyme—became Poet Laureate of the United States! I have achieved getting to age 83. I grew up in the Missouri Ozarks hearing nursery rhymes, country western songs, hymns—all rhyming. Now I let music back into my poems. I am as happy as a pit in a mud puddle.

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