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