Review by Nicelle Davis
The Forest of Sure Things by Megan Snyder-Camp
Tupelo Press 2010 $16.95,
Winner of the Tupelo Press / Crazyhorse Award for an outstanding first book
– As a new mother, I’m often surprised how many of my adult activities mirror my childhood play life; I care for my toddler boy the way I loved my baby dolls. Of course parenting a living child and raising a doll are different experiences, but the emotional similarities between play and reality expose the links between imagination and empathy. It is this magical exchange between imagined and real that Megan Snyder-Camp captures in her stunning collection of poems, The Forest of Sure Thing.
The nightmares of our childhood morph into the fears parents have for their children. They joy of childhood also finds its way into how parents love their children. This collection of poems beautifully shows how one story weaves seamlessly into another. In the poem “The House on Laurel Hill Lane,” Megan Snyder-Camp writes:
She knew when love unwound her but not how.
Let your hair down over the briar patch,
she read to her daughter from the little golden book,
the two tales sewing each other up.
This poem, like others in the collection, captures the poet’s range in tone and voice. Snyder-Camp’s poems have a childlike charm as well as voice of mature empathy. Another example of this range is in her acrostic poems, which morph the titles of Where the Wild Things Are and Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day into stories of adult life. In the poem “Exhibit at the L.A. Central Library: Acrostic at 7 Weeks,” the wild thing for the persona is pregnancy and the “Earliest versions of a “body fastening inside” her. In the poem “Seven Year Acrostic,” the bad day of childhood becomes a bad job at work, love, and faith. This blending of childhood and adult narratives shows how we create stories upon the foundations of the stories we are told.
The image of building upon existing foundations repeats throughout the collection. The book begins with a persona who is told by a near stranger the story of a historical northwestern family. While attempting to reestablish a deserted village, this family finds themselves without roots once their second child is stillborn. Upon hearing this story the persona can’t help but poetically reconstruct the lives of this couple. As the poem “Our Shipwrecks Build Houses” explains:
I took for my novel: a local girl
the town’s first birth in a century.
Her brother stillborn. Years—even now—
I made a home of their loss, adjusted their beds,
adds a third child, erased her.
This is a prime example of how stories make us, or rather make worlds within us. These worlds allow for a physic relief. Snyder-Camp’s book explores the healing qualities found in writing in reading in this beautiful collection of poems.
Megan Snyder-Camp’s new book, The Forest of Sure Things, thoughtfully places two distinct yet overlapping narratives beside each other to create aninterplay between the past and present. The first half of the book is the imagined history of a couple crippled by the devastation after loosing their child. The second half of the book, it can be assumed, is focused on the storyteller and her fears of loosing her child. While being a nuanced and complicated scaffolding for a poetry collection, this book couldn’t be any closer to a simple truth—bringing new life into the world is terrifying in ways no child could ever imagine with play. This understanding of fear is the leap from imagined love with a baby doll to the visceral experience of becoming a parent. The Forest of Sure Things is an incredible translation of the subconscious mind in our growth process.
Please enjoy the collection’s opening poem, a reflection of the subconscious, and then order the complete work of The Forest of Sure Things for your soul’s enjoyment.