Review of As Meaningful As Any Other, the poems of Donna Snyder, Gutter Snob Books, 2022.
By Christina Zawadiwsky
“That which is dreamed can never be undreamed” is a quote from Neil Gaiman, and Carl Jung says “Nights through dreams tell the myths forgotten by day.” Did you know that the brain regards dreams as actual experiences? So too Donna Snyder’s book of poems, As Meaningful As Any Other, is her personal dream world and individualized mythology, replete with artwork by Tezozomoc. In the first poem of Donna Snyder’s fourth book of poetry we read “Not the mother. Not the grandmother. Not the obedient sissters. She is split blood, the severed root, the woman who runs away to the desert, lives in a stone circle with her animals and her words” (from “Split blood severed root”) who will “tell you a story,” and we realize this woman is Donna Snyder herself, the Other, the Black Sheep, the wildflower, the nonconformist, the different one, and so we settle in for the tale.
In “half daft and purely simple” this woman meets a man, “a simple man who sets her free from silence.” He calls her “German” as she calls him “Irish” and they begin to live among the others where “Snakes slept beneath the earth” and with “My back to the world in the valley below me/I stopped time” (from “Seven Deer Seven Times – Chicomexochitl”). Donna writes that “she was surrounded by Tibetans who knew her secret” (in “mama”) and in a strange synchronicity I myself am wearing a Tibetan amulet that I feel gives me comfort and power. On one side there’s a yellow stone and a silver flower and an the other the relief of a Dragon etched into silver. The woman who brought this amulet back from Tibet bought it from a Tibetan woman who, through fair trade prices, will be able to feed her family for a year with the money she’s received. So I feel even more connected to Donna, who again in “mama” writes that “she takes her happiness in her hands/turns it into a stone she loses in her pocket.” As the earth produces stones we find in them their jewels and treasure them and wear them and smile, as “Behind the mask, we find Woman. And once truly found, Woman smiles” (from the poem “Woman smiles”).
Coming from a family where the children only see television at their grandmother’s house, Donna’s mother plays records for her with “the relentless ecstasy of Ravel, the subliminal messages of Rigoletto, Puccini, and Tchaikovsky” (from “Twitty Baroque”). When her “Grandpa sat weeping into coffee….the night Grandma died,” she “hid behind Daddy, suddenly aware of the dark” (from “Suddenly aware of the dark”). In the poem “Blank Check” Donna asks us to supply meaning to everything, writing notes on blank checks given to us by a waitress in an imaginary cafe (from “Blank Check”), a new type of tabula rosa. This is because “There is no theory of everything” and “everything does not exist” (from “Focus on Kandinsky’s white dot”) because “God is a woman at all times being pleasured./And out of her pleasures unfolds the world” (from “Dream”).
As you can see, Donna Snyder believes in myths and visons and yet realizes that we are all the same, all men and women walking together on this earth. She tells us her own story while full-well knowing that it’s the story of us all, with just a few changes in the particulars. All reduces to our daily lives, our relationships, our families, our gestures, our feelings, our food, our women, our men, and what we’re feeling and what will befall us until we are raised up and start all over again. Art bestows its beauty upon us, washing us in the crystal insights of others, and yet we always return to our mundane lives and our mysterious desires. In the poem “her daughter” Donna pronounces that “I look for mama in all my lovers/in one I found her way with numbers/in one I found her maternal urge/in another a rage unconnected to the current day” as we all long to be fed and at the same time to understand the very first person who held and loved us. And I reach down and touch my yellow stone again, my mother, my sun, my connection to everyone, to the primordial soup and the primordial sea, to Donna alone and yet forever with us as through her words of courage and hope we are considerably blessed by poetry. And now The Other is no longer the outcast but the one with whom we can finally bond, with whom we interact and identify and smile and love and storm, the other not just surrounding us (like the mother) but outside and beyond us, Mother, Lover, the person to whom we’re as close as anyone can be. And we too smile, pleased as anyone, having flowered from creation to being with another and finally living, living.
Christina Zawadiwsky is a poet, journalist, film and literature critic, a visual artist, and a television producer. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts award and two Wisconsin Arts Boards awards, a General Electric/CCLM Younger Writer’s Award, an Outstanding Achievement Award for her book of poetry The Hand On The Head Of Lazarus, and twenty local and two national awards for her television series Where The Waters Meet as well as a Commitment to Community Television Award, and an Art Futures Award, among other honors. She has published poetry in over a thousand literary magazines and in four books, and is also a recipient of a Pushcart Prize Award in poetry.