Review of The Tongue Has Its Secrets in Yellow Chair Review

Review of The Tongue Has Its Secrets reviewed in Yellow Chair Review

The Tongue Has Its Secrets

Donna Snyder

NeoPoiesis Press, 2016

Reviewed by Eric A. Cline

The Tongue Has Its Secrets by Donna Snyder is a poetry volume rife with spirituality, sensuality, mourning, violence, and prayer. The language utilized throughout the books possesses what may be the most important criteria for establishing strong voice in writing: uniqueness glossed in polish. Snyder actualizes her vision for her work through meticulously crafted execution, resulting in the sense that the book’s many words, lines, and stanzas have all been cradled and cared for at length by the artistic mother who birthed them.


During my initial reading of the work, the most consistent theme to catch my attention was Snyder’s frequent evocation of the religious. More specifically, Snyder references a myriad of feminine deities, from the Corn Maiden to Athena to Mother Crow. Even when not referencing a specific deity, Snyder envisions God as a woman. One example of this can be found in the poem “Creation Myth,” excerpted below:

          “A fairy whispers in my ear that God

            is a woman at all times being pleasured.

            Out of her pleasure unfolds the world.”

 This union of spirituality and sensuality weaves throughout many of Snyder’s poems. The result is an affirmation of not only the femaleness of God as a concept, but also of the ways human sexual energies can result in something almost like worship. This worship can be of the self, or of others one is attracted to, as in this segment from the poem “Fat beauty:”

            “…Boys slipped

            you grins like magic potions, charms for your altar,

            offerings to the image of la Roseanne.”

 Snyder’s examination of femaleness further extends beyond the divine. In “The Muse of Juárez,” Snyder turns her attention toward violence against women. The poem details the sad phenomenon of femicide through gruesome images of the rape and murder of innocent women in Juárez, Mexico. The poem is one of the volume’s darkest in tone, and rather than try to express humanity’s horrified reaction to the subject matter, Snyder ends the poem with the sounds of blackbirds:

            “The world silent. A dead stone.


            Nothing but the sound of blackbirds cawing,

            crying out in grief.”


Snyder’s verse cries not only for human victims, but also for animals that have suffered at mankind’s hands as well. The poem “The Sunday news” describes dolphin mutilations and the resultant tears of God. The grief found within this piece and others sharing its theme provide the book with a theme of sorrow and hurt that make the book’s other themes of divinity and holiness through sexuality all the more important. Snyder is not content to simply write about pain without offering alternatives or remedies, and though her work transports the reader to places of great misery, it also reminds them why she has bothered to write at all. “Invoking the muse,” a short poem about the power of language, closes with the following description of a female wordsmith:

            “maker of kings

            caster of spells

            inciter of riots


            she who wields the power of words”


Donna Snyder wields the power of words, and hers is quite the weapon to behold. I would recommend The Tongue Has Its Secrets to anyone interested in female spirituality, sexuality, struggle, or hope. Though dense with references to gods the reader may not possess immediate knowledge of, the book makes all time spent researching its subject matter worth it for the experience of Snyder’s artistic divinations.

My poem “Chilling Effect” published in The Tongue Has Its Secrets

from my collection The Tongue Has Its Secrets, my collection published by NeoPoiesis Press in 2016

Chilling effect1
I want to write about being at risk,
Silenced and scrutinized,
in nightmares jeweled words
wrangle sense and image.
Sun-shot thought champions dissent,
but anything I say can and will
be used against me.
Why am I alone in this protest?
Where is the vigor of astringency, the vinegar
homilies to warn of Cassandra’s oblivion?
Where are the bereaved, clad in weeds
of aubergine & black?
In the garden there is a skein of broken limbs,
bound for burial.
Avert your eyes and pray for solace,
the sweet bitterness of grapefruit marmalade
that wrenches a tongue from slumber.

A chilling effect is the stifling or suppression of political debate or other form of
expression or conduct by creating, through law or force, a fear of penalty or other potential
negative effect. See, e.g., “Chilling Effect Doctrine.” West’s Encyclopedia of American
Law 2005 15 Apr. 2015




The Sunday news by Donna Snyder

My poem The Sunday News at I Am Not a Silent Poet

I am not a silent poet


From the Associated Press:
Dolphins found shot, slashed, stabbed, and missing jaws.
Mutilations and other injuries recorded in recent months.
One found dead near Gaultier had a hole made by a 9 mm bullet.
Scientists who study marine mammals report four recent strandings
and on a recent Friday, another dolphin dead on Deer Island,
a piece of his jaw removed.

This just in:
Nietzsche was right about God,
and I am left alone in an incomprehensible world.
Sentient creatures who might have the answer I seek
die bleeding peace into a dirtied ocean,
its waters fouled with despair that cannot be scrubbed clean.
Dateline Damascus:
Children and journalists mutilated and killed by bombs,
blown into the meaningless abyss of a zero sum game.
They failed to learn the rules of play.

In other news:
People shot, slashed, stabbed—
an endless litany of horror born of greed for capital or…

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The Dictators by Pablo Neruda Translated by Scott Nicolay

From Miriam’s Well

Miriam's Well: Poetry, Land Art, and Beyond

Los dictadores

Ha quedado un olor entre los cañaverales;
una mezcla de sangre y cuerpo, un penetrante
pétalo nauseabundo.
Entre los cocoteros las tumbas están llenas
de huesos demolidos, de estertores callados.
El delicado sátrapa conversa
con copas, cuellos y cordones de oro.
El pequeño palacio brilla como un reloj
y las rápidas risas enguantadas
atraviesan a veces los pasillos
y se reúnen a las voces muertas
y a las bocas azules frescamente enterradas.
El llanto está escondido como una planta
cuya semilla cae sin cesar sobre el suelo
y hace crecer sin luz sus grandes hojas ciegas.
El odio se ha formado escama a escama,
golpe a golpe, en el agua terrible del pantano,
con un hocico lleno de légamo y silencio.

The dictators

A smell lingered over the canefields;

a penetrating blend of blood and bodies,

of sickening flower petals.

The tombs between the coco palms are stuffed

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New Poetry 2017

Get a copy of Nancy Patrice Davenport ‘s new broadside

Country Valley Press

Featuring Empty Hands Broadside #23, MINDFUL POCKET POEMS. Nancy Davenport hails from the San Francisco Bay area.  Her first chapbook La Brizna was published in 2014 by Bookgirl Press. 


Empty Hands Broadside ordering info


Six poems from Spectral Pegasus / Dark Movements – a teaser of a longer collaboration between poet Jeffery Beam and Welsh painter Clive Hicks-Jenkins. 


FOUR PLUS FOUR by David Giannini. A chapbook of four poems from Becket, MA. 


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