Review of Gravity by Lynne Schmidt

Review by Daniel Warner

Gravity is stars falling from the ceiling. Gravity is two bodies in orbit, constantly repelling and colliding regardless of intent, regardless of time. Gravity is what you deserve and what you desire reacting and retreating due to forces beyond your control.

Reading this chapbook you will feel the pull of gravity through each page flip to the end, which is a new beginning. Bright stars in the dim dark will light your way until they fall off the plaster ceiling. A speaker will wear a dress of blood, fingers will function as razor blades, cars will collide with memory, and despite best intentions, the wrong person’s hands will pull across years straight through to a “little lamb heart.” Gravity documents the push-and-pull anguish of an off-and-on relationship through a set of images that evolve as the relationship moves from a reality to a memory.

Schmidt chronicles many memories throughout the collection and returns to the image of a car crash in particular, beginning with one involving her best friend in “Striking Pavement” and eventually embodying the relationship into the image in “Breathing Patterns.” Cars later even become a place of safety in “No” and “The Impermanence of Stars.”

The speaker of the poems moves from self-deprecation in earlier poems in the form of statements like “I’m easy to replace” and “I needed you like hours/need minutes” to a place of self-empowerment in “I Wish I Had Listened” with, after years of returning to a smoldering relationship, the Plath-y declaration “You, boy/are not good enough for me.”

There is the vast night full of real stars, and there are stars we recreate in our own rooms over and over until the adhesive no longer sticks. “We hung our universe above our heads,” Schmidt admits, either not knowing of her relationship’s inevitable fall or fully aware of it but choosing blissful disbelief over cynicism. And this is the triumph of Gravity, the way it reveals that paradoxical humanness of returning to the things that harm us: as planets spin; as love fluxes and flows; as humans, we map our old ways onto the current way of things.

Lynne Schmidt’s chapbook broods on and chronicles the wistfulness of how we haunt ourselves with the familiar, even if it is painful. It shows how there is love even in the hateful memories—and how we hold to hate like a hand on a heart the moment before a crash. Schmidt starts with a “fuck you” to the past and ends with a yes to the “Now”.

Thank you to Daniel Warner for reviewing Gravity!  Interested in reviewing our titles here on the N&S site or for your blog or other site? Join our launch team!

An Interview with Lynne Schmidt

First and foremost, what inspired you to write Gravity?

A lot of things. I had a lot of feelings surrounding this particular relationship that weren’t quite going away. The dynamic I wrote about here had so many layers to it, the relationship (or lack thereof) itself, who I was at the start to who I am now, the feelings….all of it. Weeks before I’d assembled this collection, I lost my dog to an aggressive cancer, and then found out the subject of this collection was engaged. It was a different kind of loss…

Gravity wasn’t meant to be a collection, but I put everything together and sent it to him a week or so before he got married. I think some small part of me was hopeful my writing would be powerful enough to summon him to my door, and I’d find him saying he’d missed me.

But this is real life, not a rom-com. So my dog stayed dead, he got a wife, and I got a book.

Did you struggle at all, writing about such emotionally-charged events?

Yes—I worried the words weren’t right, or that they didn’t give justice to the experience and the feelings. Editing was harder, I think. Some of these poems I’d written years ago but as I put them together in this collection, I realized pieces were missing to help the flow of the story. Leos was a hard one to write because I wanted to encompass how hard it is to lose something you’ve worked so hard for—the banality of a relationship, the everyday boring goal of setting your toothbrush beside someone’s. It was doubly hard because here I am x-amount of years later, in a healthier and happier relationship with another person, and still stuck in the past.

How about Gravity’s subject—does he about it? If so, do you know what his reaction was?

He knows. He said he’s buying a copy.

When this collection was longlisted, I’d reached out to let him know and ask if I should pull it. He said it’s my writing and he was proud and happy for me. And let’s be real, he’s a Leo, so having an entire collection about him? Please, he loved it.

What was your process in writing this book? Did you write the poems individually and notice these through-lines or set out with this final product in mind?

The poems were written individually. I’d go through phases where I missed him (especially when I was single, or found out he was engaged) and needed an outlet. Parts of me are still having a hard time letting go. When we met, I was such a mess, and so was he. I thought we could work together and heal each other.

And well, it worked, just not in the way I had expected or hoped.

He was married last year. About a week before his wedding, I put everything I’d ever written about him together, named the collection GRAVITY, and sent it to him as a “hahah” kind of thing.

I didn’t expect to put it on submission…And here we are.

Do you have a favourite piece(s) from this collection?

Leos is a favorite, for sure, The Impermanence of Stars, and To Make You Love Me.

Were there any pieces you decided not to include in the final version?

Yes and no. There was one that was handwritten that I wasn’t able to find in the time to resubmit. I’m sure I’ll write more poems about him in the future—I mean, good material is good material, right?

Can you tell us more about the cover?

Yes! My friend Reid Maxim is an incredibly talented artist. He does photography, paintings, pretty much name it and if it can be pretty he can do it. I’d seen some of the work he’d done with galaxies and spray paint and watercolors. I knew I wanted something space-based (how could I not with the name Gravity), and because stargazing had played such an integral role in the dynamic that was written about (see Aries/Leo interactions). So I asked Reid and he put this together. The hardest part for us was picking the font and then the placement of it. We met up at Applebee’s and had a few Adios Motherfuckers and BAM.

We had our cover.

Who would you most recommend Gravity to?

Anyone who has had that love. The kind where when you see the other person, it’s as though the stars have burst and glitter is raining on them. Even if you know they’re flawed, and even if you know this is never going to work out, you’re grateful for this moment, this breath, this kiss.

This collection is for the people who wear their hearts on their sleeves.

What have been your favourite and least favourite parts of the publication process?

Time management, haha. On a daily basis, I am juggling work, an internship, and graduate school. So being picked to be published was a dream come true, but then adding that into the mix AND adding a move at the end of September. Please don’t get me wrong, I am so so honored and grateful and feeling all the feels. Timing was the hardest part. I’m so sleepy.

Do you have any advice for those who might want to follow in your footsteps?

Yes—don’t give up on your work. I have had so many people cheering me on, telling me not to give up. If it wasn’t for them, I probably would have by now. But publications, collections, full out novels—they take time and a ton of effort. Keep going, and it’s okay to take breaks when you need them.

What project(s) are you working on going forward?

Right now I have a forthcoming collection from Thirty West Publishing called On Becoming A Role Model, which is slated for Spring 2020. It revolves a lot around my family, my trauma, and figuring out how to be the kind of adult my niece can look up to.

Outside of that, I have a memoir, The Right to Live: A Memoir of Abortion, that I’ve been working on for the last few years about my experiencing with an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy, the religious shame and guilt that nearly drove me to end my life, the abortion that saved it, and reinventing myself as a snowboarding instructor.

And some young adult novels that I’m working on editing. I can’t wait until January when I’m done with school and can focus a bit more on writing and snowboarding.

Besides the amazing work you’ve created here, what’s your favourite poem you’ve ever written? How about your favourite by someone else?

My favorite poem I’ve ever written was probably Aftermath which appeared in Volume 2 of Frost Meadow Review. I wrote it following the death of my dog and best friend, Baxter. It was the first thing I’d written in a long while, and from there I couldn’t stop. Gravity followed shortly after, so it’s strange how this all has worked out.

My favorite poem written by someone else is probably Sylvia Plath’s Lady Lazarus—I have the words, “And I Eat Men Like Air” tattooed on my collar bone.

“Striking Pavement,” an excerpt from Gravity by Lynne Schmidt

Striking Pavement

He holds my heart the way school children hold rocks.
His arm cocked at any time,
Ready to release.
And though I say he holds this like a rock,
My heart is something more of hand blown glass.
So I know when he lets go,
The world will shatter.
Gravity will pull me down with so much force,
It will set an anchor,
And I will shatter like a windshield in a car accident,
Like the one that killed my best friend.
My heart broke then.
I put it together with masking tape that’s not strong enough to hold posters on painted walls.
I put it together with super glue that washes off hands.
I put it together with duct tape,
With beer bottles,
With putty to fill in the cracks.
I have broken my glass heart so many times,
That maybe this time,
When he throws it and it strikes pavement,
It won’t shatter,
It will explode.

from Gravity

Author Statement: Gravity by Lynne Schmidt

Dear Reader,

When I was in the process of coming back together after a traumatic relationship, I met someone. For a moment, it was like everything in the universe had come together for this second – for time to stop, our eyes to lock, and then everything went back into motion.

For a long while, I believed in magic because of him. I believed in Taylor Swift songs. I believed above all things that he was like super glue and could fix me, even as he told me all the reasons I wasn’t right for him. He was the gravity keeping me on the earth, causing me to look forward to whatever is going to happen tomorrow. My hands would sweat any time I heard his voice because he was this mythical unicorn that I could never catch. I knew the entire time we would never end up together. But that didn’t mean my heart listened.

This collection was put together because at the end of the relationship, and even now, there was so much left unsaid and my heart wasn’t done talking. The words needed somewhere to go and they wound up here.

So, Dear Reader, this collection is for you – for anyone who has had their heart broken, healed, broken again, only to find that you were the one capable of reassembling yourself.

Please, remember what you’re worth, what you deserve, and never settle for anything less.

All my love,