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.

poem in first Yellow Chair Review anthology

 

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Embrujada

she seeks truth in a boy’s flesh

he has none

nothing promised

nothing given

nothing subtle nor redemptive

a flame between her eyes

fire at the tip of a spotted nose

burning bush splinters and ash

disconsolate night gives birth to fate

 

ancient house of cactus and brick

she howls there in the shadows

a starved dog on a hot night

dystopia present tense and here to stay

decay accumulates with every breath

nothing borrowed and nothing new

honest blues buried in the back yard

a stone grave

a brass bowl

an angel carved from a dead tree

her self caught in bad retro porn

The Devil in Miss Jones

no satisfaction to be had

grace and wisdom another myth

 

the only truth found in a drunk tattoo

ugly monkey

frog beauty

frantic ache

sad tequila spit of rain across her face

language no more her gorgeous cloud

no mermaid symphony

no siren song

no wild sweet echoing in the dusk

gentle oasis gone dry too damned fast

his warm flesh now snow cold soon old

a foul shadow left behind to tantalize

time chained and drunk in a pine cave

universe dancing to night’s song

____________________________________

 

 

In 2014, Donna Snyder released two books of poetry, Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal (Chimbarazu Press) and I Am South (Virgogray Press). NeoPoiesis Press will publish The Tongue Has Its Secrets in 2016. She coordinates free weekly workshops for the Tumblewords Project, which she founded in 1995.

Order Yellow Chair Review Anthology

My poem Voices chosen as Yellow Chair Review’s first weekly feature

My poem Voices chosen as Yellow Chair Review’s first weekly feature.

Voices 

Someone said Anne Sexton wrote poetry so Kurt Vonnegut could conquer fear

coerced confessions never the most reliable
you want truth then look at Botero’s art
stick my head in a latrine and call me Rover
leash me beat me send photos to your friends
I’ll tell you every truth that never existed
shackle my hands to the dungeon wall
fetter my ankles and dress me in a red bra

be sure to match the panties painted on me
show my hairy arm pits my hairy knees
my face and belly and disgusting arms

what you want me to be what you’re afraid I am
soon I’ll confess both my sin and your own
I am a spy who bears incendiary thought
the hand of an angry god ready for retribution

put a collar on my throat sing cantatas of jeers

I call Lowell mama and Plath was my daddy

Sexton became my lover on the asylum path
I got no poppa and momma doesn’t want me
I’m not a normal woman I have needs
she breathed into my ear I want it all the time
at least I did before these new little pills
Dear Abby got it all wrong at least about me
she says women think about sex only rarely
while she claims men do every other minute
she’s wrong or I’m not natural the votes are in
It’s not that I see people as walking dicks or cunts
I’m no kvetching Portnoy either I don’t complain
it’s not like I’m even very good anymore I fear
the way they all leave I must have lost my touch
but still I have my needs my needs my needs
I hear your rhythms in words inside my head
put your hands around my neck inhale my breath

she confessed my madness in lie after naked lie
she chronicled my strife in every precise detail
torturous connections described everyone’s fear

her breath in my ear made me want to be her poppa
hold her in my arms and carry her to a sturdy bed
listen to her prayers and lick her throat with kisses
hide my excitement behind a mask of care
but I knew exactly how it would all turn out
standing on the path behind a cold stone wall
she’d forget me as soon as she found another
that’s if she’s ever able to forget me at all 

she was running for the streets when she found me
I was running from the streets when I moved in
she told me stories about family but nothing real
she sang Jim Carroll lullabies throughout the night
a song about people he knew who died so young
she let me sleep by day against the doctor’s order
she didn’t like how wet I get didn’t like my smell
I left her to be Edward Hopper’s waiting redhead
and now live on the always lonely side of the pain
condensation on glass my paper and flesh my pen
blood for ink scrawled across a threatening wall
a rhyme on my lips I’ll jump into my own grave
and I shall die sullen no one knowing my name
split me in threes with your spite part poppa part
meat-hook part the me that lurks in sordid glass
since I’ve already been to Brooklyn as she said
there’s nothing more to expect from this life
but it’s not her I want now that she’s left me
it was the thrill of meeting her on that path

I gaze into the mirror like a Botero beauty
I always hear her rhythms inside my head
I’ll forget about her as soon as I find another
that is if I’m ever able to forget her at all
I don’t think about her now except sometimes
those random dark hours when I call her name

from Botero's Abu Ghraib series

from Botero’s Abu Ghraib series

Anne Sexton with quote

Anne Sexton with quote

 

embrujada by Donna Snyder

My poem, embrujada, won the Rock the Chair challenge for the Yellow Chair Review and will be published in their August 2015 issue.  This is substantially the same poem with minor changes.

embrujada featured at the Yellow Chair Review’s Rock the Chair

embrujada

she seeks truth in a boy’s flesh
he has none
nothing promised
nothing given
nothing subtle nor redemptive
a flame between her eyes
fire at the tip of a spotted nose
burning bush splinters and ash
disconsolate night gives birth to fate

ancient house of cactus and brick
she howls there in the shadows
a starved dog on a hot night
dystopic present tense here to stay
decay accumulates with every breath
nothing borrowed and nothing new
honest blues buried in the back yard
a stone grave
a brass bowl
an angel carved from a dead tree
her self caught in retro porn chic
no satisfaction to be had
grace and wisdom another myth

the only truth found in a drunk tattoo
ugly monkey
frog beauty
frantic ache
sad tequila spit of rain across her face
language no more her gorgeous cloud
no mermaid symphony
no siren song
no wild sweet echoing in the dusk
gentle oasis gone dry too damned fast
warm flesh now snow cold soon old
a foul shadow left behind to tantalize
time chained and drunk in a pine cave
the universe dancing to night’s song

public domain image found in Wiki related to the Greek Goddess Nyx La Nuit by William Adolphe Bouguere

public domain image found in Wiki related to the Greek Goddess Nyx
La Nuit by William Adolphe Bouguere