Review By Emily Crespo
It’s August, coincidentally. I am writing this review on a trampoline under sun-dappled leaves. I haven’t yet looked her up, so I imagine someone else. Danielle takes me right away into her childhood. I read quickly, like I am behind the door of the bathroom sobbing with her, snot in my hands; recreating the powerful feeling of being that helpless. Her first poem HOME/OTHERWORLDLY is a slideshow of ‘HOME’ and ‘IMAGINE’ gives the feeling that you are looking through pictures and she’s telling you about them. You see the 25 cent bracelets, her pushing a wheel-chair enjoying it. You feel a bowling ball on her toes and an aluminum bat against her body. People are shouting. You imagine her trying to tell you everything very quickly. It’s sad, difficult, and colorful at the frame-speed of swiping. It almost feels innocent.
I’m willing to be influenced. I arrive to a book hoping to learn something. But because the sweeping themes of anxiety and childhood are too close to home, I’m afraid of a fragmented style. I want to tie it all together. Zaccagnino’s poetry collection is about that feeling. I started reading her poetry with this feeling of apprehension in the Greek sense. Except instead of grasping, I felt a bit like I was the one being held by the author and, like a little snow-globe, shaken.
Let me know how you feel after reading HARDWIRED, Selected Text from Internet Therapy, EDIBLES: A PRIMER, or AFTER NIGHTMARES: A CATOLOGUE OF DREAMS ON 20MG CITALOPRAM. Her writing is powerful testament to the peculiar arduousness in the contemporary epic journey of free will right now. All tabs are opened, anxiety is free-flowing. She evokes powerlessness continuously in her examples, in her family history, in the children she describes, in the way she is dragged into experiences, but she reminds us more than once that this powerlessness is her place of power.
There are 25 entries. They aren’t repetitive. You can safely call them autobiographical pieces and what is the, yes you can do that, yes “this too was possible” of poetry to reference Adam Fitzgerald’s take on Carmen Giménez Smith from lithub1 . Although Fitzgerald doesn’t say what exactly is breathtakingly allowed, Zaccagnino does that to the reader as she explores mental health.
10th entry, page 25
CARNAGE DREAMS AND TWIN PEAKS: where D.Z. gives her images free reign. The inkling that her relationship with mental health presents her with a fluidity of imagination that she has tried to fight by organizing it, or is in some way inescapably subjected to like a Socratic daemon, is evinced in the lines, footnotes, and parentheticals she lays out for the reader.
“My anxious mind is an endless reel of torture porn*, a buffet of
(For years I believed a teenager split my sister’s throat. I didn’t look for the scar or confirm the memory with any member of my family. The assault was, to me, a given of our upbringing.)”
Her writing mimics how levels of generality are charted. You can see how she supports and defines her descriptions in a hypervigilant, hyper-intellectualized cascade. But then within the parenthetical aside she shows a simplicity. She has the ability to summarize her life. She organizes the outpouring.
SMSNSTIA’s prose gives the sense that D.Z. extrudes her molten idea, and seeks form for her paradoxes (Power is Powerlessness, Anxiety/Healer, Unity in Brokenness) by allowing herself by whatever style or reference necessary to exist as she is, especially in TOUCH, AND A FRACTURING.
“I am reading four books this weekend. Three of them for my thesis meeting Sylvia Plath’s Ariel, Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, and Victoria Chang’s The Boss. I write to my advisor. “Can we talk more about fragmentation? Does it appear in all three? I’m losing my grip on the word.” I could make a case for everything as broken.
Going between books she’s reading for her studies, where she speaks of central desire to be covered with a heaviness which seems self-explanatory, while she uncovers the memories of helping others to be comforted while being revealed. Her memories of bodywork are part of what she has to recall and write with in Texas and her effort to blend her stories about that bodywork in the past with her MFA studies into words is now a terrifying Hegelian proposition which is entailed by the revealing personal writing she is undertaking. The reader can understand that the synthesis never seems to occur for her.
It’s immense how much she is trying to put together into words but she is up to the task. I’m left wondering if she isn’t trying to expand the base to include and allow more experiences for others to be valid. She interweaves her experiencing of: Carmen Gimenez Smith’s take on wordplay as a calming device, Edward Hirsch’s take on fragmentation, being in an MFA program and being in San Marcos, Texas while her husband stays behind in Minnesota doing a Phd, Jennifer Scapettone’s introduction to Amelia Roselli’s book of poems Locomatrix, a videogame called Katamari Damancy she played as a child where a magic ball sticks to objects, with massage clients who share the common sense that, “People want to be vulnerable here.” But also the reminder from a therapist to close things down. “As you finish your writing routine, remind yourself to pack it up and put it away.”
Danielle Zaccagnino is an essayist, a poet, and an English teacher. She was the winner of Sonora Review’s Essay Prize (2016) and Salem College’s Rita Dove Prize in Poetry (2017). She has an MFA from Texas State University. Her writing appears in journals such as Diagram, Waxwing, Sonora Review, and Puerto del Sol. She is from Queens, New York.
Emily P. Crespo, spends her time project managing home life, ER Nursing & baking & is the author of two books of poetry: Stats on Loved Debris & Peripatetic Musings. She lives in wild Northeast Baltimore, MD with husband Joseph, two lizards, a cat & 3 kids.