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Lines and line breaks are poetry’s structural units, in much the same way that timbered planks — and the gaps that must be filled between them — create a ship’s hull. Fittingly, the rapturous poems in Robin Beth Schaer’s “Shipbreaking” are fashioned from taut lines joined by tension. Nautical imagery of wind, waves and wreck suffuse this volume. The horrors and wonders of the natural world—extinctions, disasters, migrations — and the fragility of human life are commingled. Schaer refracts the personal through the political in ways reminiscent of Yehuda Amichai, whom she cites as an influence. And traces of Jewish thought are inscribed across Schaer’s verse, as in “Fear,” which draws inspiration from the Talmud to fashion a psychological bestiary. She may be the only contemporary poet who can turn a contrite lover into a coelacanth, or depict toasting bread with so much sexual tension.

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