pat schneider: “and what is more generous than a window?”

Today I am grateful for brief yet meaningful encounters.

Three years ago, I ordered a signed copy of Pat Schneider’s Another River: New and Collected Poems (2005) via her website. When it arrived, I was surprised to find a note from Pat with a gift copy of her chapbook, The Patience of Ordinary Things (2003).

I fell in love with the title poem, and was honored when Pat gave me permission to share it here. Though we only exchanged a few emails, I was touched by her kindness and generosity, totally in awe of the 83-year-old poet, author, playwright, teacher, and Founder/Director of Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA).

At the time, Pat’s poetry was new to me, and I knew little about her early years in Missouri, where, as the child of a single mother, she lived in tenements and an orphanage until she received a scholarship to attend college. “Those early experiences deeply influenced her writing and fueled her passion for those who have been denied voice through poverty and other misfortunes.”

Recently, while looking for more poems to share for Poetry Friday, I thought again about Pat and visited her website, where I was saddened to learn of her passing in August 2020. I read many tributes, listened to her reading her poems, and watched several interviews, awestruck not only by her professional accomplishments, but her abiding faith in human potential and creative genius, as she encouraged all to find and amplify their authentic voices.

I love hearing hers.

“Moon Balloon” by Sokol Selmani
THE MOON. TEN TIMES
by Pat Schneider

1. Round cool face of forever
    float free
    for me

2. Saucer without a teacup
    without the tyranny of 
    of tea

3. Owl eye without a pupil
    blind
    to contradiction

4. My white balloon
    has lost its string
    and me

5. Round, open mouth
    of the goddess
    of light

6. The night sky's
    exclamation:
    Oh!

7. Puppeteer
    of tides
    rock the shore of the world

8. Bright frisbee
    the dog star lost
    in the night

9. Perfect pearl crown
    of cornfields
    and night watchmen's hair

10. Bellybutton
      of God

~ from The Patience of Ordinary Things (Amherst Writers & Artists Press, 2003)
Art by Lee White

The day after I learned about Pat, I discovered that Peter, her dear husband of 63 years, had died of COVID on December 29, 2020 (he was 89). He had been in a care facility for the last year of his life, struggling with dementia.

Pat and Peter met at seminary school in California. He was not yet a poet, but wrote a poem to impress Pat during their courtship. After they married in 1957, they moved to Massachusetts, where they began their ministry, most notably at Wesley United Methodist Church in Amherst. Together, “they founded two residential communities connected to the church, made partnerships with other communities in working toward racial justice, and engaged in anti-poverty efforts across the region.”

After leaving the ministry in 1980, Peter became more involved with AWA, and helped to create Amherst Writers & Artists Institute, an outreach program for women and children in public housing. 

Pat and Peter Schneider (August 2017)

And he began writing poetry in earnest, publishing his first book, Little Fence, in 2006. His poignant, heart wrenching poem about aging and memory loss, “Lost in Plain Sight,” is featured at Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry as well as at The Poetry Foundation website.

Now, both have been called home, where they are together again — two people well loved, two lives well lived, united in purpose to foster good writing, nurture the human family and elevate the worth of every person they met with compassion, friendship, guidance, fellowship, and grace.

Schneider home in Amherst
About, Among Other Things, God
by Pat Schneider

Come.
The primrose blooms in the garden.
The mourning dove calls in the sycamore tree.
Rain on the sill of the window,
sounds of every kind of weather
are sweet in this old house.
Come.
 
In the pantry, jars of beans,
lentils, sunflower seeds. Sesame. Jars
of preserves, small cans
of spices stand in rows.
 
It is here.
 
A woman stands in the doorway
and calls. Her apron bleached from washings
and from hanging in the sun. Behind her,
through the doorway, the house
is dark and cool, and the word
that she calls into the late afternoon,
into the shadows gathering under the lilacs,
into the long, long shadow of the sycamore tree
is come.
Come home.

~ from Another River: New and Selected Poems (Amherst
Writers & Artists Press, 2005)

*

Enjoy this short interview with Pat and Peter from early 2020. Peter reads his poem, “Lost in Plain Sight,” and they talk about how they first met.

*

Here is Pat reading “The Patience of Ordinary Things.” The very last line — “And what is more generous than a window?” — is etched on her gravestone.

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♥️ Visit Pat Schneider’s Official Website.

♥️ Click here to read Peter Schneider’s poem, “Lost in Plain Sight.”

♥️ Click here to read my post featuring “The Patience of Ordinary Things.”

♥️ Click here to learn more about Amherst Writers & Artists, an international community of writing workshop leaders.

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The lovely and talented Ruth Hersey is hosting the Roundup at There’s no such thing as a God-forsaken town. Be sure to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week. As always, stay safe, be well, wear your mask, and have a good weekend.

*


Copyright © 2021 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

40 thoughts on “pat schneider: “and what is more generous than a window?”

    1. It’s heartening and inspiring to come across people who walk the walk. Their lives are a testament to their grace, compassion and love for humanity.

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  1. Jama, I love this post and the links to the interviews. I already miss Pat and Peter. But, I’m so touched by how they lived their lives and that their influence is still with us. Thank you for sharing the talent of this pair. I am inspired.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Jama, I did not know. So I am incredibly sad reading this, and also so very grateful. Pat played a huge role in course-correcting my writing live. I fell in love with her WRITING ALONE & WITH OTHERS. She herself was a generous window for so many… beautiful. Thank you for this lovely tribute. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was shocked to discover she had died when I visited her website. Good to hear you love and benefited from Writing Alone and With Others. Her teachings are like widening rings in the water.

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  3. Thank you for this beautiful tribute. I watched both videos – love the comment from the film maker to Peter: You’re a poet without knowing it or somesuch. All the poems are beautiful, but The Moon. Ten Times took my breath away.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautiful soul! Loved the poems you’ve shared here, Jama–so moving. And that line-windows are all about possibility and openness–so beautiful. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I never turn down reading a poem about the moon, Jama, “the bellybutton of God” is special to think about, as is “And what is more generous than a window?” I am in awe & wonder how I’ve missed these two. It’s a wonderful, endearing post. Thank you & I’m hoping your weekend is full of more joy & a few sweets, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, “the bellybutton of God” definitely gave me pause too. I’m so grateful to have those emails from Pat (saved in a special file). Thanks for the weekend wishes (with sweets!). Enjoy yours too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I am so glad to get to know this poet. So many wonderful things! I had read “The Patience of Ordinary Things” – in fact, I shared it on Poetry Friday in 2010 – but all the rest is new to me. Thank you! Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

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  7. What an amazing couple! I really enjoyed the videos of their poetry readings, his perspective on short term memory, how fleeting, and her poem about ordinary things: there is love in how the cup holds the tea. So much gratitude her work.

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  8. Wow, Jama…just wow. 10 times the moon is extraordinary. “Bellybutton of God” – brilliant. I cried while watching their love on display in the first video. Thank you for this post today. 🙂

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  9. Thank you for introducing me to these two. They will live on as we (I) learn from their lives and poetry.

    That moon poem is a wonder. Not only does she describe the moon in ONE unique way, she goes for TEN and nails it every time. Wowser.

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  10. You brought me to tears, Jama! A moving tribute. I have loved “The Patience of Ordinary Things” for a long time. “Puppeteer/ of tides/ rock the shore of the world” is marvelous and the title “About, Among Other Things, God” lets you know you’re in for something special. xo

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