Striking Surface by Jason Schneiderman focuses on death, religion, and the violence and exile of war. Though writing on such serious topics, Schneiderman still manages to weave in pop culture references, referencing several leading ladies such as Grace Kelly in his poem “Billboard Reading,” Sandra Dee and Lana Turner in “Susan Kohner (Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life),” and Audrey Hepburn in “Elegy VII (Last Moment).”
The book is a mix of genres, including free verse, sonnets, and prose poems. It opens with a sonnet, “The Children’s Crusade,” which speaks of survival (“We had survived the hot / summer, the frozen Alps. This was another trial”) and perseverance (“we had no homes. We had / to continue”). War is referenced again throughout the book, in the other “Children’s Crusade” poems and here and there, interspersed with stories of Greek gods.
Section II is a series of elegies on the death of the author’s mother. “Elegy VIII (Missing You)” stood out as the strongest of the series; Schneiderman successfully writes about the death of his mother without verging into sentimentality. In this final elegy, he explains the series as “Not a complaint about what I lost / or what it feels like to lose it. But you. Your smile. / Your denim dress.”
While the range of references, from Greek gods to movie stars, can be difficult to follow at first, Striking Surface is an intriguing book about violence, grief, and mourning.