Small Ceremonies, by Cynthia Snow

Review by Lynn Houston


(Slate Roof Press, 2016)

Small Ceremonies by Cynthia Snow is an indispensable poetic catalogue of what you never knew you needed, a paean to our last moments of earthly things. Snow’s work makes present a million tiny apocalypses, not the grand disasters that summon horsemen, but the subtle hurricane of otherness that loss ushers into our most intimate spaces.

Snow’s book has been exquisitely put together by Slate Roof Press using a letterpress printer, and deliciously textured cardstock with an oval cut-out front cover over laid onto an illustration of ceramic birds. The book includes a few photos of gardens and bowers that echo the intimate quality of the poet’s voice. The poems in Small Ceremonies are often like secrets whispered to childhood friends. The voice offers up its lyricism as sanctuary, ushering us into a sanctified space even when it confides erotic happenings.

The timeline of the poems spans from childhood to the life of an adult speaker who has a husband and at least one child. It also contains brief portraits of other people, mini snapshots of the poignant characters whose lives intersect that of the speaker. Snow enlivens her writing in other ways, mixing media for instance, including fragments of found speech—bits of conversation, lyrics from a children’s song.

What unites the chapbook is the importance of memory as a balm to mortality. Through the speaker’s ability to remember, she is able to elevate every day moments into rituals, the small ceremonies that make of her existence something sensual and divine. The experience of reading this chapbook is like discovering a hidden clearing in the woods with more ripe berries than you can give thanks for.

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