Human Beings, Though Worlds Apart, All Share the Same Set of Stars
This review was originally published May 23rd, 2018 on Vocal.Media. It may have been subject to editing changes.
Sarah Dickenson Snyder is no stranger to the world of verse or, as it turns out, the greater world at large. In Notes From A Nomad, Snyder knits together her many forays throughout distant countries and her appreciation for their inhabitants’ histories into a neat, rather compact collection. Published in 2017 by Finishing Line Press, this is her second full-length book of poetry to date, but it can safely be assumed that Snyder will be undertaking more adventures which will no doubt inspire her to soon produce a third volume. Unlike the googly-eyed rock goby she muses on in “Ecosystems,” she is eager to “… know about what lives outside of us.”
She is also quite adept at revealing that while mountains and oceans may separate human beings, everything on this planet is in fact connected. She makes particular note of this in “Elemental Imbalance.” She describes the young mothers who must exert “… so much effort for a simple bath, water to drink” while, perhaps not even on the other side of the world, “… someone turned on the shower, let it run and run…” Snyder again makes her point that the big, wide expanse of Earth is really quite small in “Lunar Eclipse.” She and “… two Japanese friends…” sit on her own porch watching the moon when six months before the three of them had gazed upon “… the same moon in an Asian sky.” People, though worlds apart, all exist under the same set of stars.
Snyder’s subtle descriptions of her adventures will endear her to lovers of travel and adventure. If readers pick up a copy of Notes From a Nomad, they will feel themselves become inspired to embark on an exciting journey of their own. Yet, before they can even book their plane tickets they will find, as poet Laura Foley did, that this collection will transport them “… around the world to Machu Picchu, Tibet, Cambodia…” The readers do not stay in a singular location for long; the poems flicker past like scenery left behind by a silent train. Snyder’s poetry makes for quick trips through the pages as though they were built for a traveler packing light.
“How to Cross a Street in Hanoi” is one of the more impressive pieces, even though it is only eight lines long. In those short but well-crafted phrases, Snyder wields language which successfully prompts the readers to feel the air buffeting against them. “The motorcycles, the bicycles / the relentless roar” of busy Hanoi are projected into the readers’ living rooms. But in that chaos there is order, a graceful fluidity. “You must be a leaf…” the speaker commands, “just walk.”
In a fascinating way, indeed perhaps by accident, Snyder manages to compare the false sense of control an individual possesses to the truth—the utter lack of it—in her work. The fear of a mother for her child who is, in a sense, light years away is the driving force of the piece in “Near Natmauck, Myanmar.” While the speaker as an individual had been able to control her own actions and avoid meeting with injury or death while navigating the streets of Hanoi when her son encounters pain as he is traveling in Myanmar, she cannot help him. All she can do is wait. Wait for him to reach a hospital and “… scroll through the images of the Yin River…” The trepidation, the defeated helplessness—these emotions Snyder has chosen to display so openly on the page are at the exact opposite end of the emotional spectrum.
Snyder’s poetry is dedicated to her travels but within the text, the themes of connectivity and balance shine through. Whether she intended to or not, Snyder’s work highlights the inability of humans to completely control themselves or the world around them, but in that chaos they have the ability to establish order in themselves. Human beings are, as she states in the poem “Notes From a Nomad,” “… invisibly trussed to a sun..,” and yet, for all their faults, Snyder’s poetry claims that this wide-eyed, loving, murderous species is “… unextinguished in a crowd of stars.”
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