One red bird morning too bright for melancholy all hard things fell away For several years, it has been my honor and privilege to observe, and enjoy, the daily postings of Phibby Venable from afar.…
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 Sny…
The day the artist died
In memory of Marío Colín
Today the artist died.
Drummers drum the dancers’ steps,
firm and heavy beneath the trees.
The dancers dance a prayer.
A black dove leaves a feather at my back door,
another on my front step.
The sky paints itself a heaven.
The Queen of Heaven
fades and crumbles on adobe walls,
her flesh cracked and weathered
by the unrelenting sun.
Without the artist to create her,
without his hands,
stained blue and gold,
how will She know herself in all her glory?
How will She love herself
without his devotion? Each stroke of his brush
another prayer. Each star placed deliberately
on her cloak by his knowing touch.
Her double chin an invocation.
Her sorrowful eyes, a lament.
Each precise shade he adds, a request,
“Pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.”
How will She know to pray
without the clasped hands of the artist
devoted to Her glory?
Who will paint the Queen of Heaven?
Who will kiss the stained hand of her most devoted son?
In the park the drums have ceased to call us to the dance.
The dancers have packed their rattles and hoops
and gone away.
A black dove nests in the arms of my Bird of Paradise.
He leaves me feathers,
in memory of the one who’s gone.
by Donna Snyder
Published in my book Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal (Chimbarazu Press: New York City 2014)
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:”
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.