Sunday, April 4, 2010

Stabbed in Stanzas Book Review: Chimeric Machines by Lucy A. Snyder

Reviewed by Karen L. Newman

Lucy A. Snyder divides her book, Chimeric Machines, into seven sections to focus on particular human traits or aspects of nature as they relate to humanity. Some poems are speculative, but most are thought-provoking horror. She takes ordinary experiences and makes them extraordinary. The vocabulary she utilizes gives the collection an academic feel at times that takes from the horror, but more often adds to the terror.
Tom Piccirilli writes a brief, yet effective introduction to whet the reader’s appetite for the book’s content. Very unusual for Piccirilli to write this as this task generally falls to a well-known poet.
Snyder uses her scientific background to her advantage in quite a few poems, such as in “Trepanation”: for the rusty saw they used to open / a blow-swelled skull: the trepane / saved careless patricians from coma. Her word choice is precise as a surgeon’s incision for maximum imagery and effect. The prose poem “Ocean” shows her mastery of imagery: The sea wrapped the planet like a blue amoeba that had flattened itself around a grain of sand.
The theme of the poem “And There in the Machine Virginia Finally Stood Up” is common to the point of trite these days, but the poem is the most memorable of the book. Here Snyder utilizes simplistic language for a simple person. Her story is relatable to anyone who reads it. Other common themes Snyder makes her own are bad neighbors, Halloween, cats, and college students.
Each section is effective, except for Part IV Crete, Kentucky. She has not lived in Kentucky at length and thus tends to uphold stereotypes instead of delving into a subculture to portray inhabitants as individuals.
Chimeric Machines is an excellent poetry collection for those who don’t think they’ll like the literary genre. Snyder shows she’s a master of words, a true wordsmith.

-Karen L. Newman