By Lynette G. Esposito
Stephanie Dickinson has cleverly used the prose poem form to reflect diary entries of a tragic narrator. Published by The Bitter Oleander Press of Fayetteville, New York, the sixty-six- page tome is strong on place, emotion and image.
The book has five sections which are characterized by places. The five sections: Salzburg. Vienna, Berlin, Galicia, and Grodek. Dickinson adds time as well as place in the titles and a linear time line throughout until you reach the final sections of 1914. She also uses a linear time technique in Salzburg, 1887 where she details personal items about George Traki, 1887-1914. that influences the poetry being presented.
On page fifteen, Dickinson begins her two- stanza prose poem with The Linden trees take on a wilt. The tone is set. The second stanza begins, Morning drags on. Again, Dickinson combines poetic skill in linking place with time. All through this first poem are details setting the scene presented as if these are diary entrees that are logical, emotional and personal. This first poem captures the reader completely.
The tone changes in the second section called Vienna and the time is 1909. The first poem in this section on page twenty-nine is The Wine-Hunt. It is a one-stanza poem that begins: Vienna, 1909. Two days asleep. Dickinson’s narrator gives time and action as if it is a notation to the self. The narrator speaks of extreme drunkenness and a sky full of piss. The poem reads like a self evaluation of one’s condition and in this poem, the self- evaluation is negative. The narrator puts his fingers to his nose and smells the piss. Dickinson skillfully causes the reader to not only see the narrator’s condition but to relate to it through the senses.
In the third section, Berlin, the poem Snow on page forty-one begins 1912. Tavern night and the serving girl’s shoulders sag…. Again, Dickinson has placed the reader as both the observer and as participant in this one- stanza poem. This sweet girl nudges the narrator out into the snow and the many cruel things that happen to a drunk in the cold.
All the poems in this book are prose poems of different lengths but written with great detail and sensitivity. The book is an interesting and complicated read but worth it.
You can find the book here: https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781734653519/blue-swan-black-swan-the-trakl-diaries.aspx
Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.