I Dream of Empathy – Trees And Human Balance As A Gate To Find A Better World


I had the pleasure to read – and now I have the pleasure to review – “I Dream of Empathy – and other poems in first, second and third person” by Marianne Szlyk. It’s a little book, 46 pages only, that is able to keep you sitting in your armchair considering nature and the things that are around you as much as a heavy philosophical essay.

First of all I loved the title and, in a particular way, the subtitle. I found very interesting to underline the distance between the three persons and the difficulty of feeling things that are happening out from the self. Empathy is the only bridge we have to link with each other and with the “other”.

In this book empathy is considered as a vehicle for implement peace. It makes me think about the “Hanukapi” – or the Peace Calumet – that was the bringer of the three kinds of peaces, that Lakota people received from the woman dressed in the white deer skin. She told the Great Chief that the first kind of peace, and the greatest one, is the one that links all the people of the Earth with the Whole. In the poems written by Marianne, this kind of peace is broken by mankind. The city life style, the environment spoiled by smog, the frenzy and the lack of balance are the main causes of human de-humanization. In all that great chaos, only trees with their continuous standing are able to give a certainty to the poet.

Another thing that I appreciated of this chapbook is the fact that most of these poems were previously published in other magazines. I always enjoy to seeing the gathering of different stories and poems from a long journey through the magazines. In my opinion it adds more depth to the collection process of the chapbook.

The pamphlet begins with a bitter note in the first verses of the poem that gives the title to the collection.

I dream of empathy,
but I woke up
to a photograph
of a hanging tree.

So it all begins with a broken dream, the one that we can call also “utopia”: the possibility of living togheter without any kind of violence, in peace and with respect to each others. But it is only a dream, and as soon as the poet wakes up, the only image that she could see is the one of an hanging tree. The violence of man against his brother, and the perverse way he uses Nature to get his purpose.

I really like the way Marianne writes, because she is very good in evocating the shape, the tactile feeling and the scent of the trees that she describes. It’s like walking in a wood full of trees of any species. And this is fine considering that also the support of the poems – the paper – is part of that wood and can read the voices of the trees coming from the pages.

In the other poems we can find the power of Nature that is always able to strike all the human struggles. A day of heavy rain is enough to show people how little they are in front of the greatness of wind, water and other elements. It’s a sort of pertness, something that makes me think to the greek Hybris, or the arrogance of mankind in front of the great power of gods. But from the other side, Marianne Szlyk do not forget those cities where the nightmare of the “ghost town” is always behind the corner as she wrote in “She Wonders What Will Become Of This City”.

She wonders if the people huddling miles inland
will ever visit the abrasive waters

and imagine what might have been
in the ghost town where she now sits.

In many of the poems of this chapbook I found words coming from other languages as like Mexican, French and so on. I like the insert of non-English words because they bring other “seeds”, other “roots” to this collection. Trees, in the poems written by Marianne, are everywhere, also in the deep meaning of the language.

Many are the things that I can say about this little great chapbook but I think that the only one that really matters is to suggest you to meet with it. It’s an encounter, a walk through cities where the clouds are so similar to cars that the poet is not able to distinguish them, it’s a passage through the wood labyrinth to find the holy tree. It’s a good book to bring with us in those moments where we are not able to see the light house any more.

Mendes Biondo

To know more about the book you can visit the link http://flutterpress2009.blogspot.it/2015/09/new-release-i-dream-of-empathy-by.html

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