Sunday, May 14, 2006


ANNA EYRE reviews

Purr, by Mary Ann Samyn
(New Issues, 2004)

[Review first printed in TRAFFIC, Editor Elizabeth Treadwell, 2006]

It has been said that before we are conscious of something we must have a word for it. Mary Ann Samyn's third book Purr elucidates a consciousness that is built on language. The poem "Beneath Speech" welcomes the reader into a collection that is aware of the weight of words, the importance of questioning their definitions and the way in which we use them. In the poem a woman is "looking up at the undersides of words." and the words physicaly take on the characteristics of that which they describe.

In the air, the smell of snow like bits of speech--may I
have a little word?, she wondered, because or so to cover me--

Mary Ann Samyn's little words reach into the big world of ideas by tracking thought in a perception made of nothing but signs and symbols. Her language is vernacular and yet,because of the juxtopositions she creates by following a thought-fractal, becomes a different sort of communication. A communication/expression through familiar language that bursts into the unfamiliar questioning of its accuracy. The poem "A Thought, For Example, Is a Form" adresses what happens when we think of a word. Riffing off the definition of words such as "mine," the poem simultaneously takes place in the concrete world of what language stands for as well as in the abstract world of language itself independent of things. "The point being that you can't see it. The point."

Perhaps it is in this seemingly familiar language that we can best see the absurdity of certain predicaments and their description. What seems simple at first glance is often what is most complex. "As for complexity, I've come to prefer it-". Mary Ann Samyn forces us to confront the larger questions of our existence by rubbing them up against the minutea. The Big Bang for example enters a poem alongside a postcard or consider the title "Origin of the Universe or Cheerleading for Novices." Her sense of humor is evident throughout and instead of making fun of or mocking an intent, it serves to accentuate the difficulty of trying to express/communicate/illuminate anything through language. By highlighting the pointing/referential aspects of words she is simultaneously able to rely on their fixed content as well as unglue it. This is not a simple task, "there is so far to go" and there is no dispute that when Samyn says, "I go as far as I can." she has.


Anna Eyre is a professor of English at UNM-Taos. She is also a reading tutor for middle school students at Taos Pueblo Day School and served as the assistant editor for the 2005 edition of Traffic. Her chap book Metaplasmic was published by effing press in 2004.


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