Publication Date:  June 1, 2019
Paperback, 80 pages
ISBN:  978-1-937968-55-7
Booksellers:  Available from
Small Press Distribution
Peter Schireson began writing after a long
career, first in education, then in business.
He holds a Doctorate in Education from
Harvard University and an MFA from the
Program for Writers at Warren Wilson
College. He is also an ordained Zen Buddhist
priest and dharma lineage holder, having
trained in both the U.S. and Japan. He lives
in Palo Alto, California and New York City
with his wife Grace, with whom he co-edited
Zen Bridge: The Zen Teachings of Keido
    Somebody scrape it out, write it down,
    all of it, nothing brushed aside…

Peter Schireson follows his own injunction in his new collection of poems, Sword of
, leaving nothing out, encompassing matters cosmic and comic, revealing them to
be sides of the same coinage of life.  (Offered as evidence:
the notes to the poems
include a Christian martyr, a self-disfigured Zen nun, the fossils of a proto-human
species, and shoe designers, among others!)  He finds evidence of “Divinity” in “that
curvy green plastic thing / in the hardware store” as readily as in orioles and apricots.  
The middle section of the book is devoted to a Bergman-esque “scenes from a
marriage”, unflinchingly honest and poignant, from the first moment of wondering
“what would happen” through the too-late realization “I was not as kind to her / as I
should have been.”  In the title poem, his father’s father appears as an absurd survivor
(at one point hilariously disrupting a family wedding), tucking him into bed in
childhood with warnings to go right to sleep, lest otherwise

    in the morning, sunlight will cut you
    like a sword of glass, and you’ll never again
    be able to jump up and down…

but later revealing, on his deathbed, that

    Life is sunlight held together by blood…

Such a simple recipe, and yet, as Schireson shows us repeatedly through these poems,
it is of such basic things that we are made. In his penultimate poem, quoted here in
full, he reduces it even further:

    I hear the rattle of keys.
    I open the door, and
    it’s nothing.
    Nothing, I think,
    and reach out
    to touch it.

And, like the Big Bang itself, out of this nothing comes wonder.

Praise for Peter Schireson and Sword of Glass

I love Peter Schireson’s book of poems, Sword of Glass.  These poems manage to
seem finely wrought and improvised, madcap and solemn, down to earth and mystical,
a perfect blend of Mel Brooks and Rumi. This is work to live with, brood about, and
learn by heart. I love this book.

                              Alan Shapiro, author of over ten poetry collections, including
Life Pig & Reel to Reel

Here is the poet on the page as naturally as a man in the shower.  He has brought the
experience of a whole life with him.  He is not ashamed to love women, children and
family. Neither does he flinch to write of death or loss or crime, but even the saddest
Peter Schireson poem is an occasion for delectation, relish. He has written, “Together,
we would change the world / one warm French potato salad at a time.” He has written
“Aunt Jennifer’s Painting of Uncle Marsh Playing Tennis with Satan.” It is all here,
the laughter, the tears, and the dream of the one great soul, rendered with exacting
craft and tenderness.  
Sword of Glass is a marvelous book.

                              Rodney Jones, author of many books of poetry including
Salvation Blues: One Hundred Poems, 1985–2005 &
Elegy for the Southern Drawl

The power of Peter Schireson’s book lies in his ability to dig with a shovel where he
stands and to throw same shovel far, far away, digging where it lands. In other words,
these poems work on multiple levels—they are at once deeply personal, and
contemporary, aware of the world around the speaker. The poems of this collection
are both shattering and darkly humorous. Schireson hits all the notes in this textured,
intelligent, deeply compelling collection.

                              Martha Rhodes, author of five collections of poetry, including
The Thin Wall & The Beds

Peter Schireson’s beautiful poems—full of wit, loyal to the potential for late-life
erotics, drawn to stare the most terrible facts in the face—startle the reader into the
awakeness, and even hilarity, that results when  an essential strangeness is revealed
inside the supposedly ordinary. As Schireson’s poems progress a sudden ignition takes
place, a kind of creative furor, in which the veil of illusions is torn and one looks
directly at a luminous truth.
Sword of Glass is that—a magnificent furor.

                              Patrick Donnelly, author of
Little-Known Operas, Nocturnes of
                              the Brothel of Ruin
, & The Charge

Peter Schireson is a poet of surprise, waving a hand, enlarging the frame to include a
man combing his hair as he slips between the comb’s teeth.

    “ we’d wonder aloud
     if somewhere in our bodies
     we might already have cancer
     We were a chaos—
     even our happiness
     was not very happy.”

Not a poetic top hat or wand in sight, but melancholy leaks off the page, duplicating
the scent of my high- school homeroom. Did we both date the same forlorn girl? Each
poem is like an exploding piñata, scattering golden M&Ms, the shadows of moths, and
secrets into the empty vases, the pencil holders, the steaming coffee on my desk.
Something plunks into a clear fishbowl, suddenly unfurling into brilliant paper peonies
and dahlias. How does he do that? He might just be a magician.

                              Peter Coyote, author of
Sleeping Where I Fall &
                              Zen Priest, Soto lineage of Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi
Sword of Glass

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