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I Dream of Empathy Paperback – September 12, 2015
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Paperback, September 12, 2015
About the Author
Marianne Szlyk is a professor of English at Montgomery College, an associate poetry editor for Potomac Review, and a member of the DC Poetry Project. She also edits The Song Is…, a blog-zine for poetry and flash fiction inspired by music, especially jazz. Her previous chapbook, Listening to Electric Cambodia, Looking up at Trees of Heaven, is available online through Kind of a Hurricane Press.
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However, there is also much more. While Marianne Szlyk’s book is titled I Dream of Empathy, and that is the opening piece, she also manages to feel empathy for nature in “Cabin Fever” observing that “green leaves outside glitter as if welded to the tree” and ending as “A CD of saxophones and shadows plays in your head” to “remind you of thunder,/of when the weather seemed more manageable.”
She becomes a stranger in a strange land in “Augusta, Maine” as she watches her offspring not only fit into a foreign location but blossom and thrive in the environment. Later, she recalls her own childhood in “My Mother Told Stories.” Perhaps the most interesting “segment” of this book is when Szlyk presents a Faulkneresque series of poems in three voices and titled “Scene From the Blue Room” wherein the reader dives into the thoughts and emotions of three women in the same room at the same time focusing on the same event.
More than the stories contained herein is the sensory imagery she uses. One of the earlier poems, “She Wonders What Will Become of This City,” displays this deft use of imagery as “the sky above swells into a bruise” or “the green fuzz of moss grows over trees/like plaque on teeth.” But her skills here move beyond the visual and extend into touch as the line finishes with “bones [that] ache with decay” or earlier in the piece as the reader can feel “the pages of books dampen and thicken,/becoming too heavy to turn.”
No wonder one of the final offerings is titled “Imagining Empathy,” an example of ekphrasis that moves the reader along the colors and contours of a painting. Szlyk need not “dream of empathy:” her writing is the embodiment of it.