BOOK REVIEW: “Chimeric Machines” by Lucy A. Snyder
Poetry is subjective and definitely more so than with other types of literature for it is, outside of its basic construction, left up largely to the emotional and intellectual interpretation of the reader. Poetry can be likened to the appreciation of abstract art in that the initial impression of a piece is often a profoundly instinctual reaction triggered by the layering of creative elements to evoke a particular memory or emotion. The way words, phrases, metaphors are strung together, even the structuring of the lines themselves upon the page, are like the layering of found objects and paint, the movement of the media capturing the viewer and thrusting them forward into the dream of the artist themselves. Depending on the reader’s background, a single poem can be interpreted, despite the original intentions of the author who penned it, a million different ways. What speaks to one reader may fall flat and lifeless upon the heart of another. I have seen one-word poems that moved people to tears while others are lulled to sleep by the most intricately crafted stanzas. Therefore, when I first received CHIMERIC MACHINES by Lucy A. Snyder, a small collection of thirty-eight poems with an introduction by crime noir horror author Tom Piccirilli, I was a bit hesitant to cast a personal review of the book. Poetry is a subject matter that is very dear to my heart. I have personally written poetry for nearly twenty years and, thus, I realize the difficulty of writing profound, timeless pieces. Sometimes it would appear that every metaphor, every “clever” observation, every innuendo has been used before, countless times. However, for me, I view this as a challenge of refinement, a necessary obstacle that forces new poets to push the envelope of their craft and explore the furthest reaches of their own intellects, their own subconscious reflections about themselves and the world around them. That is why it saddens me a bit when I read poetry that feels as if it simply wasn’t quite nurtured to the point of rediscovering the poet’s personal truth.
Unfortunately, while reading CHIMERIC MACHINES, I couldn’t help but feel this way time and time again. While I could see the potential in each poem, I was constantly left with the sensation that the work had not yet reached full maturation, that it needed to be guided forward that extra few miles to break through and become memorable. Snyder’s attempts to capture specific moments in time feel a bit awkward and adolescent, her descriptions a bit too shallow as if I were holding the dust jacket to a CD instead of standing in the orchestra pit at the opera. Even poems that began with promise ended feeling a bit rushed and empty leaving me disappointed. I did no once have that “ah ha!” moment or that peaceful sense of Zen that comes at the end of reading a truly moving poem. Perhaps if revisited by the poet in a few years, they could be reworked to truly embody the spirit of the life instances Snyder is attempting to portray in her collection. But, for now, they simply do not hold the passion I, personally, need in order to feel in communion with a poet’s work. Poetry is a difficult beast to tame. It is a meditation in simplicity, yet a study in the complexity of the universe itself and our precarious place within it. Perhaps with Snyder’s future collections I will get a better sense of her ability to tap into this and finesse a more perfect harmony from her chosen words.
Lucy A. Snyder is an accomplished and prolific author with three novels, three collections and a colorful assortment of short fiction under her belt. Her poetry and nonfiction pieces have been published in a variety of online and print magazines. There is no doubt that this is not the last poetry collection we will be seeing from Snyder in the coming years. For more information about her previous work visit http://www.sff.net/people/lucy-snyder/biography.html.