Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Helen Hajnoczky's chapbook, The Double Bind Dictionary, is reviewed in Broken Pencil #61

Scott Bryson was good enough to review Helen Hajnoczky's chapbook, The Double Bind Dictionary (2013) in Broken Pencil #61 (despite mangling the book's title). Thanks, Scott! This is the second review of Helen's chapbook, after this one by our pal Ryan Pratt, and Broken Pencil was good enough to review the previous chapbook above/ground press produced of hers as well. Copies of The Double Bind Dictionary are still available, here.
The nine poems in this experimental collection are culled from a larger project -- called Magyarazni -- in which Helen Hajnocsky chose a Hungarian word to represent each letter of the Hungarian alphabet, then wrote a poem in English "about that word." In The Double Blind Dictionary, we get poems for all the multi-character letters: cs, dz, dzs, gy, ly, ny, sy, ty, and zs.
    Most of these poems are, fittingly, about language: the unpronouncable, the ixnexpressible and, understandably, frustration. Tongues go numb, throats are swollen, voices are "stuck in tar" and "clogged with muck." The Double Blind Dictionary thus functions like a literary quicksand pit, where deep-seated fears bubble to the surface -- like the physical manifestation of a recurring teeth-falling-out dream. There are a couple of poems about drinking, as well; it's the cure, perhaps -- the medicine that might loosen the tongue.
    It's inevitable that readers not fluent in Hungarian will be missing a piece of Hajnoczky's puzzle. That grievance aside, there are some clear successes here, most notably when Hajnoczky manipulates syllable count and near-rhyme to create the illusion of rhythmic real-rhyme. The result is a laid-back and effortless style; the words cascade down the page. There are, unfortunately, nearly as many instances where a complete absence of capitalization and frequent awkward pauses turn poems into clunky excursions.

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