What I seek in my work (both poetry and painting, both process and product) is “lyrical abstraction”—“lyrical” primarily as a matter of time, “abstraction” primarily as a matter of space. As a matter of time, not one thing after another but every thing all at once. As a matter of space, the whole in every part, every other wholly other—as simple as possible, as complex as necessary, always a play of possibility. In poetry an eye for silence, in painting an ear for emptiness, in both a work of the hands.

“Lyrical” calls music to mind. More to the point, I believe, world calls mind to body in music. What we call “mind” is a lyrical structure that emerges as our bodies engage the world. This is a process of abstraction, creating a particular (simple) interface with which to engage particulars that, without the interface, would entangle us. We organize the particulars of the world (including our selves) in narrative (in language), but we encounter them first the way we encounter music: as Adorno suggested, we do not really hear the first note of a composition until we hear the last. We hear it as a whole, not a collection of parts; and that is also how we engage the world.

I don’t believe the work of art is a matter of “inner” or “outer,” impression or expression, or an object to circulate between the artist and the world. Nor do I believe it is a matter of representation. I believe it is a matter of abstraction akin to the emergence of “mind.” I believe it takes place—it is embodied—between bodies in the world, between you and me, one well-ordered collision (to borrow a term from Helen Frankenthaler) among others. Of course, whether a collision is well-ordered (or ordered at all) depends on all the “others” among whom it is an other, and that means the work is always a collaboration that (if it works) invites more than it contains.

In painting, my abstraction begins with color—almost always three “primary” pigments (a blue, a red, and a yellow) plus titanium white to desaturate and highlight. Occasionally, I add ink or graphite for depth or shadow where my intention is to create the illusion of an object. I almost always emphasize fields of color over line, counting on their overlaps, intersections, and inexplicable collisions to allow my eyes and others to find edges where there are none. In poetry, I most often have Paul Klee’s “taking a line for a walk” in mind—not filling silence with sound so much as seeking silence wherever I encounter a wall of sound. I believe language and music are both matters of silence and that (with Laozi in mind) nothing, more than anything, makes vision work.


Ph.D. · University of Chicago · Ethics & Society · 1982
M.A. · University of Chicago · Divinity · 1976
B.A. · Valparaiso University · Psychology · 1974

Other Publications


corona (poems and images, ebook). Timberline Press, 2020.
in the path of totality (poems and images). Chicago: Strawberry Hedgehog, 2018.
What’s Love Got To Do With It? (essays). Beaumont, Texas: Lamar University Literary Press, 2016
Red Stones (poems by Jonas Zdanys, paintings by Steven Schroeder). Beaumont, Texas: Lamar University Literary Press, 2016.
the moon, not the finger, pointing (poems). Beaumont, Texas: Lamar University Literary Press, 2016.
still (poems). Chicago: Purple Flag, 2015.
dispersed cities (poems and images), published to coincide with the exhibition “Dispersed Cities” at the Paper Crane gallery in Canyon, Texas, March 14 to April 15, 2015.
daodejing (with David Breeden and Wally Swist). Lamar University Press, 2015.
a water planet (poems, with Chinese translations by Song Zijiang, Sou Vai Keng, and Vai Si). Macao: Flying Island Books, 2014.
mind the gaps: fragments (poems). Chicago: Purple Flag, 2014.we’re open, come in (poems). Chicago: Purple Flag, 2014.
Seven Sorrows (poems, with linocuts by Neese Aguilar). forget gutenberg press, 2013. [A handmade limited edition chapbook, printed and bound by R. Schroeder at the Boston Paper Collective.]
Raging for the Exit: A Commonplace Book (poems, with David Breeden). Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2012.
Turn (poems). Virtual Artists Collective, 2012.
Aftermath of Storms (with James Hoggard). Timberline Press, 2012. [A handmade limited edition chapbook, printed and bound by R. Schroeder at the Boston Paper Collective.]
Four Truths. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2011.
Only Gifts changing Hands (poems). forget gutenberg press, 2011.
wittgenstein & buber: 33 varieties of what, S Schroeder and C Newman. forget gutenberg press: living wage editions, 2010.
a guest giving way like ice melting: thirteen ways of looking at laozi (poems and paintings, with Debby Sou Vai Keng). Temple, TX: Ink Brush Press, 2010.
On Not Founding Rome: The Virtue of Hesitation. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010.
a dim sum of the day before (poems). Temple, TX: Ink Brush Press, 2010.
on the no road way to tomorrow (poems), Edited with Li Sen, Liang Huichun, Long Xiaoying, and Charlie Newman. Virtual Artists Collective, 2009.
Six Stops South (poems). Cincinnati, OH: Cherry Grove Collections, 2009.
А. Бергсон и проблемы методологии гуманитарного знания. (с В.М. Пивоев) Петрозаводск: Издательство ПетрГУ, 2008.
Two Southwests (poems), Edited with Li Sen, Long Xiaoying, Wang Hao, and Zhang Xiaohong. Virtual Artists Collective, 2008.
The Imperfection of the Eye (poems). Virtual Artists Collective, 2007.
Fallen Prose (poems). Virtual Artists Collective, 2006.
Revolutionary Patience (poems). Virtual Artists Collective, 2004.
Theory of Cats (poems). Johnstown, OH: Pudding House Press, 2003.
Touching Philosophy, Sounding Religion, Placing Education. Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi, 2002.
Between Freedom and Necessity: An Essay on the Place of Value. Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi, 2000.
The Metaphysics of Cooperation: A Study of F.D. Maurice. Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi, 1999.
Virginia Woolf’s Subject and the Subject of Ethics: Notes Toward a Poetics of Persons. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1996.
A Community and a Perspective: Lutheran Peace Fellowship and the Edge of the Church, 1941-1991. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1993.

Blog Posts


    the beat of the sounding body [This will open in a new tab and may take a few moments — please be patient.]

    theses on violence (a work in progress)

    wuxing: meditations on process



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