Chimeric Machines Paperback – Mar 1 2009
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I loved her honesty, and her layered levels of meaning. As a student struggling at a non-Ivy State University, I have felt her rage at elitist professors in the poem `Dumb'. Additionally I love Lucy Snyder's titles. In `Sofa Nervosa', we step into the window of a housewife's life as her cat leaves `a comet of vomit, a fishstinky hairball' and her reaction to the coming Apocalypse on the news... for a starlet has shaved her head. In `Prometheus' and `The Fish and the Bicycle' we explore unexpected desires. A series of poems set in Crete, Kentucky illustrate in snapshots sordid smalltown tragedy. Lastly, anyone who's done time in `grad school' intimately knows the characters in `Searching for Signs of Life in the Bottom of a Cup of Cold Coffee'. Perhaps you see one in your mirror.
This is not poetry to bore you, sandwiched and sanitized, gruel for high school classroom consumption. You're not required to map, measure, spindle or explicate it. There are depths to plumb if you're so inclined, a rich and complex labyrinth of meaning and emotion. However, I'd strongly recommend - at least the first time through - you simply enjoy this awesome book.
By Lucy A. Snyder
Reviewed by Nickolas Cook
Creative Guy Publishing
Back in 2007, I did review of Lucy Snyder's short story collection, "Sparks and Shadows" (HW Press, 2007), and was blown away by her ability to cut and kiss with the same sentence. It was an astounding collection that rightfully garnered accolades from many genre reviewers and professional organizations. Now Lucy Snyder has released what may be the best collection of poetry I've read in years- within or without the genre.
Divided into seven carefully balanced parts, Snyder opens the collection with the perfect selection to warn the reader of CHIMERIC MACHINES' impending agenda with `Modernism', a poem steeped in brutally beautiful symbolism that does not leave any doubts of what's to come.
There is not one poem in CHIMERIC MACHINES that doesn't fit in place like a delicately carved piece of a complex and consuming puzzle. There are poems of ethereal beauty that waft through your senses like sugary winged butterflies, and poems that feel like cold rusty blades being driven violently into your soul. One in particular left me teary eyed. `Babel's Children' is less an ode and more of a denouncement of how the late great J.N. Williamson was let go into the void by his `loved' ones.
If it's only half true...well, I'll let you read and decide their deserved fates.
Snyder gives us passion, love, desire, hate, despair, sometimes in the same stanza. It is a gifted wordsmith that can alternately touch your heart and make you existentially nauseous.
But Snyder has a playful side, too, as displayed in Part 4, `Crete, Kentucky', where gathers together a motley crew of grifters and killers and tells their stories in poetic form-- a sort of mini Spoon River Anthology for the horror geeks among us.
If there was ever any doubt about this author's talent, CHIMERIC MACHINES will put them to bed for good and all. There is no other writer working today quite like Lucy A. Snyder. And watching her develop is going to be a once in a lifetime marvel to behold.
P.S.--Get a copy of CHIMERIC MACHINES before she becomes the next big thing. Del Rey, a large NYC publishing house, has finally recognized her enormous talent, and her impeding release with them, SPELLBENT, promises to push her into the well-deserved spotlight.
If you love language, Snyder never disappoints. These pieces don't need rhyme or meter to make them sing. She places each word like a gemstone in a setting formed by a master's hand. I kept turning certain phrases over in my mind, fingering them like rosary beads. From "Tech Support", "Faith's no narcotic, once you've lost humanity." And, "Mom's a brick of ash in a Baptist wall/and the nest I made stayed empty," from "After the Funeral". She also offers up what may be the most provocative title of all time, "And There in the Machine, Virginia Finally Stood Up". The poem's as tasty as the title, too.
Snyder channels some fantastical voices - a black hole, an S&M Prometheus, a patricide/suicide. And sometimes, she's just messing with you. You can hear her laughing in "The Fish and the Bicycle", "Home For The Holidays" (who knew a dead man's self reassembly could be witty?), and "Dime Novel". But this is smart stuff. "A Boy's Guide to Neoteny". I had to look up "neoteny" and then the subtlety of the title took my breath away. No, go get your own dictionary.
The pinnacle of the collection is the five-poem cycle "Crete, Kentucky". Greek mythology by way of white trash drug dealers. Labyrinth, anyone? Keep reading; you'll get it. The story seems so straightforward, but layers of meaning reveal themselves on so many levels.
If you like poetry, if you love words, if you revel in wit and intelligence, Snyder's work satisfies and delights. This is a collection you'll read again and again.
Tom Piccirilli's introduction is short, quirky, and a great way to set the mood before you dive in. Consider it a palate cleanser for the ever-fresh sashimi Lucy slices the world into. The book is broken into seven courses: Technica, Quiet Places, Dark Dreams, Crete Kentucky, Daughters of Typhon, Strange Corners, and Unshelled Evolution. Some sections are more coherent than others, but, for me, the first was the strongest punch. I made notes on each poem as I went, and so many of them, first time through, were just, "Yes. Oh Yes.", or "Delightful", or "*hee*". That's where she hits me.
The leading piece, "Modernism", is simple, but oh-so-elegant, beautifully wry, and hits on several levels. It's two brief stanzas, both relating the same scene, speaking on classical art and modern art, life, perspective, and it is...delightfully wrong, which is a mode I think Lucy aims for frequently.
"And There in the Machine, Virginia Finally Stood Up" is a prose poem, and not what you might expect from the collection's title, but perhaps all the more powerful for that. Three pages long, a lifetime, but I wouldn't do the themes justice by explaining them. The poem does them justice, in spades. My only qualm is that the end is perhaps a bit simple, and glib, in comparison. But there is a lot of glib, throughout, and it's something she does very well.
"Subtlety", which GUD originally published in Issue 2, gets a special call-out in the introduction, and it's well-deserved. From my slush notes, "I was hooked from the first stanza. The third one had me laugh out loud, for real." It still makes me giggle with glee, the punnery, and imagery, and sheer playful twisting of language, which is both subtle and so-very-not.
"Sympathy" had me at "the soylent flesh of every blessed enemy", which, admittedly, was the last line, but I then wrapped around and enjoyed it anew--not because of any particular twist that reshaped the poem as a whole, but because I knew what was coming.
And so on. Some other favorites, in order of presentation, were "glowfish", "Mute Birth", "Home for the Holidays", "Internal Combustion", "Infinite Loop: Girl with Black Eye", "Uncanny Valley Girl", "Book Smarts", "Dumb", "Permian Basin Blues", and "Photograph of a Lady, Circa 1890". I could probably list most of the book.
Not everything worked so perfectly for me; in particular, I didn't enjoy the story-in-five-poems section, "Crete, Kentucky", but I expect folks other than me would enjoy it more. These poems were less playful, more focused on telling the story; there's still some poetry there, but I don't think it's up to the rest of the collection.
And, overall, where I have a complaint, I think it's rooted largely the same--most of her poetry is so strong, that when it's not doing it's thing 110%, it falls a little flat, for me. Sometimes the poem is just too on-the-nose, or saying something I've read too many times without her characteristic energy; in one case she uses a gimmick twice ("Infinite Loop: Girl with Black Eye" and "Looped"; and "Infinite Loop: Girl with Black Eye" just does it much better than the other, I think); and another she hits a theme twice, and again, not so much as extends it, but does it better in one than in the other ("Ocean" vs. "Photograph of a Lady, Circa 1890").
My complaints are few and far between, and I mostly mention them so as to not over-sell you on some mythical collection that no one would ever find fault with. This is a brilliant collection. If you enjoy poetry, speculative fiction, language, life, or any combination thereof, you should really check it out.
Lucy A. Snyder was winner of the 2009 Bram Stoker Award: Superior Achievement in Poetry.
[The review copy was given to the reviewer and will be kept]