Over the Moon…Gone: The Vanishing Act of Bess Houdini
Poetry by Jan Zlotnik Schmidt
Palooka Press, December 2021
SUNY New Paltz Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita Jan Zlotnik Schmidt’s poetry chapbook Over the Moon…Gone: The Vanishing Act of Bess Houdini brings new light to the complicated life of Bess Houdini and gives voice to this stunning and admirable woman. The collection opens with the biography of Bess Houdini, a class magician in her own right, but sidelined as her husband’s helpmate as his career took the limelight. Following his unexpected death, Bess Houdini attempted many times to restart her career, as well as to connect with her dead husband through séance. In her author’s note, Schmidt explains her research approach to studying the Houdinis and her creation of Bess Houdini’s “state of mind, perspective, and experience” through her poems as “an expansion of the biographical fact.” She further explains, “It is my hope that these poems bring Bess from the margins to the center of the narrative of the great Houdini. For Bess shouldn’t be relegated to being another invisible woman standing in the shadow of the great artist or genius. This volume gives Bess Houdini the space and chance to speak.” It behooves us all to read and breathe life into this effort.