Book Review by Zinta Aistars
Chapbook, 25 pgs.
Dancing Girl Press, 2012
First impressions count. When I took in hand the chapbook of poetry by Meg Eden, printed by Dancing Girl Press, I was underwhelmed. The pages were roughly cut and not numbered. No table of contents. The back cover had an edge not cut in line with the rest, leaving a paper tag. No ISBN number. Not the heavier stock of paper that might indicate quality …
… but it is what is inside a book, or chapbook, that counts, right?
The first typo I encountered was on the acknowledgement page. "Do I need to chose?" Really? If a publisher can't take the time to proof and do at least light editing, an author should. Or ask a literary friend to do so. I counted 15 such errors, misspellings and grammar glitches in the book, and then I stopped counting. Arguments that content counts more than presentation don’t move me. Take pride in your work, or I won't take any in putting your work on my bookshelf.
Just a few examples:
"make due with what you've got"
"there's books to read"
"there's more girls"
"I think of Sayori and I in Tenjin station"
The serious reader won't return to an author or a press that allows this sort of thing to slip by. It's ugly.
On to the poetry. Eden is not without talent. She's been published in a few literary mags and lists several honorable mentions and awards. That should mean something. And it does. Eden writes a good poem frequently enough that at moments I can lose myself in her images and well-formed lines and leave the warped wrapping behind.
In many of the poems, as Eden is still a young woman, she writes about her mother, about growing up, about the discovery of love, and self, and first heartbreak. Mother paints her daughter's nails in the poem "ritual" as a subtle way of moving her daughter past a breakup with a boyfriend. She shares her vintage aprons. She chastises her daughter about brushing her hair. She gathers crowbars and hammers to bust through a wall to find the source of a terrible smell—dead rodents. Her influence is great upon the poet, and when the poet gives Mother her due, both are at their best.
Poems such as "the silk flower" show real promise, a poet taking root. This time, Father takes a prominent role.
There! father pointed to the scrawny bud,
like a fern, beginning its infestation.
pull it by the roots. do not let it spread its spores.
I point out their pink feather duster flowers,
the beauty they are capable of producing,
but he is not won over. these things, once they grow
old enough, their trunks get thick,
their cambium cumbersome, get them
while they're young. I think of young
girls and mothers armed with kitchen knives
and scissors. take the legs and peel the pleasure
like sap from bark. grow into a woman-
shape. we will take your feet and prune them
into little dolls. set root into the floor boards.
little mimosas shrink in the cover
of the woods.
I suspect that there should be an apostrophe in "dolls" to indicate "doll's feet," but perhaps not, perhaps just feet into dolls ... and I do wish that tired old gig of leaving out capitals (except for the word "I," as if ego was all that stands above the rest) would die already, but the poem itself touches me. It has weight, it carries a message, and the image is sharp.
And there you have it. With room for improvement, I still end up liking this poet.