Robin Beth Schaer’s debut book of poetry, Shipbreaking, charts a beautiful and dangerous journey. It is an intimate and interstellar odyssey where seas rise, mastodons roam, aeronauts float overhead, bodies electrify, and a child is born as a ship wrecks in a hurricane. The speaker here is curious and fierce, consulting scientists, philosophers, ancient maps, fossil bones, and lovers. With empathy and exaltation, the poems collapse the distance between natural disasters and human struggles, exploring the upheavals and renewals that both the heart and Earth endure.

Robin Beth Schaer emerges as a lyrical force to be reckoned with in Shipbreaking
— San Francisco Chronicle


“Though this is Schaer’s first book, it feels like the assured work of a mid-career poet who has fully achieved her style. And the opening out of her most recent poems suggests wide and surprising horizons ahead.” 
—Maureen McLane in Vela

“Some poets play the spoons, but Schaer plays the knives. Her words are not so much written as carved, her lines not so much offerings as incisions … Schaer has given us the world in this debut: the sea and the sky and the many islands of desire spread between them. She has plumbed our dual human yearnings for escape and return, love as liberation and love as captivity. In her lexical and historical wanderlust, she has grappled with what it means to name and what it means to leave unnamed.” 
The Rumpus

“Shipbreaking is eerily great at linking concerns of the past—even those of prehistory—with living urgencies, combining a fantastic lyricism with near-scientific precision.” 
—James Hannaham in Publishers Weekly

“A kaleidoscope of almost-electric imagery, with undertones of the past, present, and future; fantasy; science fiction; and philosophy. Exploring environmental disasters alongside those everyday tragedies of daily life on planet Earth, Shipbreaking is all about the beautiful, messy, and dangerous ways we all live in this world.” 

“Shipbreaking is a book about being saved while recognizing loss … If we trust our poets enough, we allow them to cause wounds and then apply the salves.” 
—Most Anticipated 2015 Book Preview in The Millions


“‘Love is haywire’ Robin Beth Schaer writes in one of her passionate lyrics; love for ‘my consort, my lovely undoing,’ and for the seagoing vessels that haunt these lines, and for a young son whose future depends on the fate of another beloved, this world in which ‘under the city / aquifer fills with seawater / slowly drawing the avenues down.’ Schaer’s language and her passion operate under the increasingly inescapable pressure of limit, and the result is something beautiful and broken, like this moment.” —Mark Doty

“Shipbreaking’s ultra-taut lines urge departure, a kind of experiential upsweep. And they keen just as convincingly toward the steady grounding of land, home and the embrace of the beloved as they do toward the wind-racked surface and unknowable depths of the sea.” —Tracy K. Smith, U.S. Poet Laureate

“To read Robin Beth Schaer’s Shipbreaking is to know a body: its grave intimacy and intense delight. Its muscles and eyelashes, its shadows that make for instant dawns. The intelligence of Schaer’s lines humbles me. I am seduced utterly. Please join me beneath the waters of these poems, for here the mermaids speak to us each to each: candidly, cannily. Hand your heart over to this most stunning debut.” —Cate Marvin

“Robin Beth Schaer’s Shipbreaking offers both catalogue and hymn. Swooping between the history of human flight and the upsurges of continents, between the migrations of birds and the igniting of love, Schaer toggles between the cosmic and the intimate, brilliantly weaving a tapestry of gorgeous, sometimes painful, interconnectness. Schaer is alert both to the rawness of the elements and the work of human hands. Her poetry charts a natural history which includes us, but not only us. The child unfurling in the womb, the city flooded in storm, the ship lost at sea: Schaer registers all with a striking combination of gorgeous gaud and stark specificity. Her poems conduct the materiality of this world, its ‘kevlar, duct tape, / and prayer,’ its bees, coelacanths, and human infants; the constellations beyond and the power of the seas. This Robin both soars and sings the ‘shoaled world.’” —Maureen McLane

“Shipbreaking is a stunning book about being awake. Robin Beth Schaer spins her readers through the wires, storms, and electricity between us — with great precision of language and line. This is the voice of an explorer, a speaker of wild courage. ‘Love / is haywire,’ she says, ‘Current is the cure / for both a stopped heart and one that beats / too much.’ Brimming with recognition of conditions both human and otherworldly, Schaer speaks as guide and messenger, creating a ‘…spark…in a great loneliness.’ This is a moving, necessary book.” —Jan Beatty


Reading guides and review copies are available to teachers interested in using Shipbreaking in the classroom. Skype lessons and email interviews can be scheduled with students. Contact robinschaer@gmail.com for more information.


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Highbrow & Brilliant
— New York Magazine's Approval Matrix



Examples of poems from Shipbreaking can be found online, including ones originally published by Tin House, At Length, The Awl, and Guernica, along with several recordings of work from the collection.



Cover Art: Leslie BaumMementos: C.B., 2014. Oil on sintra. 
Release Date: August 20, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-934695-44-9
LOC Number: 2015936966
Published by Anhinga Press
P.O. Box 3665, Tallahassee, FL 32315