watching a poem – the writing of Phibby Venable

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.…

Source: watching a poem – the writing of Phibby Venable


Jillian Parker’s review of Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal in Spectral Lyre

illustration used in Spectral Lyre review

Self Portrait on the Borderline between Mexico and the United States by Frida Kahlo

Fronteriza (a review of Donna Snyder’s upcoming book)

Speak to me in Spanish. I’ll hear all vowels and no consonants. I’ll understand all nouns and no verbs, miss the plot but grasp the emotion.

To read a poem by Donna Snyder is to be transported to a variegated and vivid neighborhood of ideas.

This is a place which could not strictly be located within a geography text, because it has emerged within a community of languages, cultures, flavors, textures and creative expressions that exists along the border-lands between the United States and Mexico, and from the Celtic consciousness of a fiery red-head.

I first became acquainted with the work of Donna Snyder when she was known in online writing circles as “Fronteriza,” which seems a fitting way to describe a poet, advocate, and activist who has extended herself as a bridge between languages, cultures, and genders for many years. Her writing is populated by visionary imagery and thoughts that are bi-cultural at the very least.

Here is Donna in her own voice, in an excerpt from her latest book, Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal:

My two Diegos

There on the shelf beneath the blue glass bottles,
an altar to Santa Frida la dolorisima,
one of my special saints. She has left her mark on me,
imbued me with a certain mexicanidad.
She was rebel and rabble rouser, contraventional,
the surrealist in my woodshed.
Her blood runs in my veins,
her corazón visible and pierced
como San Sebastian, un venado espinado.
Her spirit is in me.

Having had the honor of a familiarity with Donna’s writing for a number of years, I can affirm that this is so. The spirit of Frida Kahlo lives on in the words of a woman who may very well be a living Sybil, while she is also a resident of El Paso, Texas.

In her latest collection, Donna brings us the fruits of a season of great sadness in her own life: she lost her husband, the painter Mario Colin, in 2013.

Hovering over my copy of Poemas ante el Catalfalco, I found myself deeply immersed in her emotional journey, and was struck by the potency of the words with which she mourns her losses, and yet embraces what may come. I provide some quotes below:

To Titian’s Ariadne

My body twists and turns in naked sorrow,
my love gone on his strange and lonesome journey,
without me.


Without purposeful intention

Now memory of red grows like weeds
between every thought. I learn to breathe,
and breathing learns my life.
It’s a vertical exposure
between here and the void.

According to Night Wing Publications,Donna Snyder publishes work in literary journals and anthologies throughout the United States and on-line, and has presented readings in Sitka, Alaska, Boston, New York City, Denver, and throughout New Mexico and Texas. In 2015, NeoPoiesis Press will publish her book, Three Sides of the Same Moon. She is currently working on a poetry collection for Slough Press. VirgoGray Press published her chapbook, I Am South, in 2010, due to be reissued in the coming year. Snyder is co-editor for poetry for Return to Mago, an international webzine. For Unlikely Books, she served as fiction editor of an anthology of international underground literature, Unlikely Stories of the Third Kind and edited I Can Sing Fire, a poetry chapbook by Anne Lombardo Ardolino. Snyder’s work as an activist lawyer advocating on behalf of indigenous people, immigrant workers, and people with disabilities has garnered widespread recognition.

Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal is scheduled to be released on September 18, 2014 by Chimbarazu Press.

Posted by Jillian Parker