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Book Review: Glimpses

Glimpses
Written by Neila Mezynski
Scrambler Books, 2011
ISBN 9780578081410

GlimpsesNeila Mezynski’s recent book, Glimpses, pre-dates her chapbook Yellow Fringe Dress (which I reviewed last month).  It was released in 2011 by Scrambler Books, so its publication date isn’t exactly ancient, but the book itself contains a blend of old and new work from this prolific poet.Yellow Fringe Dress, by contrast, contains more new material, and its ebb is collective in nature.  Glimpses is a hodgepodge of different selections—but this isn’t a major problem throughout most of the book.  Mezynski told me that the older pieces were left in because they are “sincere work, which seems to make a difference.”  She added “[the poems] are my kids”—a sentiment that most writers can appreciate.  Still, in some cases the old and new clash—there are two distinct tones running through this book, and they don’t always gel.

So, when it is gelling, what does Glimpses do as a collection?  It doesn’t have the same extended narrative arc as Mezynski’s newest book, but it approaches the thin (or perhaps thick) line between poetry and prose with Mezynski’s usual prowess.  This collection seeks to infuse poetics into fragmentary, micro-fictions.  It is a hybrid piece from a poet who thrives in this arena.  Unlike some of her other works, this book contains almost no deliberate structure.  It represents prose poetry in its true form—playing with syntax and diction within the confines of a paragraphed structure.  It’s an interesting experiment that pays off through the breadth of Glimpses.

Though Glimoses doesn’t have the unified arc that I enjoyed in Yellow Fringe Dress, it doesn’t need it most of the time.  This book achieves what it sets out to do.  It provides a good overview of Mezynski’s style, and it offers a series of individualized poems that let the reader pick up this book for a lengthy read or a single-page exploration.  There are minimalistic forays into microcosmic characters—like the allegorical poem “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Stay.”  And there are lengthier narratives that appeal to the fiction-lovers among us—like “The St. Francis,” a story detailing the eclectic, glib, and somewhat comical happenings of the title hotel.

It has a little something for everyone. Occasional fumbles in flow are overlookable in this installment of Mezynski’s work, since most of the individual pieces can stand on their own.  Glimpses is still available from Scrambler Books.

Review by James R. Gapinski
© 2012, All Rights Reserved

Chapbook Review: Yellow Fringe Dress

Yellow Fringe Dress
Written by Neila Mezynski
Radioactive Moat Press, 2012

Neila Mezynski’s chapbook, Yellow Fringe Dress, was released January 9th, 2012. It’s the latest electronic chapbook from Radioactive Moat Press.

Aesthetically, Radioactive Moat Press’ electronic treatment of Yellow Fringe Dress is fitting.  The chapbook is well-designed with interesting typography and a gorgeous cover.  It fits the fractured fantasy-esque dreamscape vibe of Mezynski’s poetry, and it showcases the potential of electronic publishing.  While I love print media, electronic publication has its own unique place too, and it can be an art form unto itself (when done properly—and Radioactive Moat Press consistently does it properly).  Though Mezynski’s syntax is experimental, the chapbook’s inviting aesthetic makes it easy to read.  The layout compliments the flow rather than hindering it; I wish more e-books featured this attention to presentational quality.

But enough about the design notes for this digital chap; what about Mezynski’s work?  The text is arranged in a hybrid prose poem state.  There is attention to structure, but many of the passages opt for less overt poetic structure in favor of a hybrid prose poem appearance—her work is one of the few examples of a true prose poem: lyricism embedded into prose.  There seems to be an overabundance of books/chapbooks that call anything short prose piece a “poem”–Yellow Fringe Dress is not one of these.  The collection is well-crafted, and it’s subtle arrangement ads minute layers of meaning to poetry that derives most of its purpose from syntactical variance and interesting word choice.

The chapbook’s plot is a postmodern type of anti-bildungsroman, with several instances of twisting plotlines that test the reader’s perception of what a coming of age story really can be and do.  The chapbook only stumbles moderately in its slow beginning.  If you can push through the first few pages, the latter half of Mezynski’s chapbook will surprise you.  Early on, there feels like a lack of movement, where the same themes are repeated.  Mezynski does this for thematic emphasis, yet it bogs down the reader slightly.  Once Yellow Fringe Dress picks up the pace, it hurtles at breakneck speed with vivid imagery and carefully planted sensory details.

Yellow Fringe DressThe experimental style may be hard for some readers to swallow, but the general storyline of Yellow Fringe Dress is beautifully summed up in the ending section.  The breadth of Mezynski’s piece is distilled in a minimalistic recap that can be transposed over all the preceding sections.  If you get bored or annoyed with the chapbook’s other experiments, just flip to part VIII as a cheat sheet.  You’ll miss all the detailed bridges between these fragmented, wispy little descriptors, but it’ll help you understand the central theme easier.  It’s a nice device that provides framing and closure to Mezynski’s well-told story.

At times, the text is wordy and could use some paring down to the bare poetic essentials.  But overall the piece is well-written, and Mezynski’s Yellow Fringe Dress provides a manageable foray into experimentalist syntax and imagery for audiences who might be new to this type of writing.  It is an accessible piece that gets you ready for more work by Neila Mezynski or similar writers—and after you read Yellow Fringe Dress, you’ll definitely want more.

You can find Yellow Fringe Dress at the following URL for free:
http://issuu.com/radioactivemoat/docs/yellow_fringe_dress

Review by James R. Gapinski
© 2012, All Rights Reserved