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I Dream of Empathy by Marianne Szlyk

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 48 pgs
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I Dream of Empathy by Marianne Szlyk is a slim collection of poems that search for empathy, an understanding of how others feel.Her poems speak to the hurts of the past, to the environment, a mother, a husband, and a self. She reflects with sadness for the past and present, but with a sense of hope that things can be better as long as we strive to connect with one another and our environment. There are some poems that are deeply sad, like “She Wonders What Will Become of this City,” in which the narrator says, “She wonders what will become of this city/once the oceans rise and ghost towns form like coral reefs.// The real coral reefs will have crumbled,/all color leaching away into the corrosive sea.//”

Szlyk is an artist of words. She paints full pictures and creates poetic stories to give readers an internal monologue, but also a painting of a life. Like in “Cabin Fever,” she helps the reader see the hopeless feeling of cabin fever, how there is the desire to do something, but nothing inside the home. There is an immobility in that fever. The narrator of the poem is sitting and replaying saxophone songs in her head, while the laundry piles up and the use of the dryer worries her about the impact it will have on the environment.

One of the best sections of the collection are the “Scene from the Blue Room,” where Szlyk explores the relationships between a grandmother, granddaughter, and mother in a series of poems. The love of the sea/lake is passed from generation to generation. The passage of time is distilled into melting ice cream in a cereal bowl and the wafting big band music in the first poem in the series. In the second poem in the series, the granddaughter has made it to the bedside of her passing grandmother, missing her father and their times by the pond/lake, and wishing her relationship with her mother would improve. In the third poem, the granddaughter has grown up and had to sell the house she loved to visit. There’s a sense of closure in that she understands that walls can be painted over.

I Dream of Empathy by Marianne Szlyk is full of surprises and sharp observations about human relationships and how to find empathy or at least understand where others are coming from. She conjures a story where the reader has little choice but to fall in and follow her lead.

RATING: Quatrain

DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry and More

This National Poetry Month, I was finally able to make it to the local reading at the Gaithersburg Public Library for the DiVerse Poetry Gaithersburg monthly poetry reading and open mic. It was amazing to hear Lalita Noronha, Marianne Szlyk, and Henry Crawford live. All three were fantastic, with Szlyk reading a poem about Worcester, Mass., which is near where I lived as a child. Crawford has a riotous presence at the mic and captivated much of the audience. Noronha was engaging as well, though I was a bit late to the reading and did not hear all of her poems (which made me a bit upset).

Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman also came to speak about the Gaithersburg Book Festival, which many of you already know is one of my favorites. It happens every May, and it is free and family friendly. Kids activities, writing workshops, books, authors, and tons more. Ashman spoke about some of his favorite books and authors featured this year, as well as the National Poetry Month proclamation received by DiVerse Poetry Gaithersburg founder Lucinda Marshall.

During the full open mic set, I was able to read one of my poems in the Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens. Check that out below:

Lastly, the DiVerse Poetry Gaithersburg event will be moving in the fall to the Quince Orchard Library. Readings will resume in September. Here’s the schedule, but keep in touch with schedules, etc. at the website:

  • September 8
  • October 13
  • November 10
  • December 8

Hope to see you there or at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 18, 2019.