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November 27, 2023
"Mes de los Muertos"

I Dream of Empathy: Book Review

By Ndaba Sibanda

I Dream of Empathy, by Marianne Szlyk.

From powerfully haunting poems such as "In the Year of Drought" to "What Will become of this City" Marianne Szlyk's I Dream of Empathy is a significant and urgent addition to the poetry collection market.

The very first pages of this book have the ability to grab a reader by the heart and the brain. How does the poet manage to do this feat? The poet seems to do this with ease and charm primarily and carefully through her use of vivid imagery, realia, flashbacks and juxtaposition. For example, the poet talks about a miserable man who was carried to an oak. The photo of a hang tree reminds her of days in Oregon. As the poet explores the plight and blight of immigrants or other vulnerable people living under harsh conditions characterized by the trash of daily life, swarms of mosquitoes -- the crucial question is: do the contemporary citizens and leaders of this world have the conscience and capacity to place themselves in other people's shoes?

As I was devouring this collection word by word, sentence by sentence, I couldn't help thinking and asking: have we become worse than apes? For empathy is thought to be deep-rooted in our bodies, brains and our history of evolution. Offering up images that seethe with refined and refreshing revelation, Marianne succeeds in galvanizing a reader into being intimate with the dream of empathy, its realities, its emotions and experiences.

The lesson I have drawn from this rare collection is that our morality depends on empathy.

For a better world to emerge, it is imperative to understand and embrace the capacity to emotionally and mentally trade places with other fellow human beings, especially those who are languishing in dire situations. This is a great and gratifying book that deserves to be read and cherished for posterity.

Marianne Szlyk is the editor of the online journal, The Song is ... and a professor of English at Montgomery College.

Article © Ndaba Sibanda. All rights reserved.
Published on 2018-01-15
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