about the author

Staff Book Reviewer Jessica Maybury is a recent graduate of the MA in Writing programme from NUI, Galway, Ireland. Her work has appeared in Nth Word, Word Riot and Prick of the Spindle, among other places. Her Web site is jmaybury.blogspot.com.

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What to Tell the Sleeping Babies
A Review of What to Tell the Sleeping Babies
by MRB Chelko

Jessica Maybury

The readers of MRB Chelko’s debut chapbook will find themselves plunged into a world that is both quirky and refreshing: it pulses with an odd, exotic life of its own.

The book is published by sunnyoutside press, and features a navy cover enclosing high quality paper and outstanding poems.

Nature and flowers are a recurring motif, with strange juxtapositions being the order of the day—a man inside an apple, death’s timing being “like a fat woman / blocking my view of the ocean,” a ghost that has itself surrounded.

Chelko’s voice is strong and expressive, calling to mind a musical sensibility that informs the written word: there is a quiet music to the collection that is rarely found elsewhere and highly treasured. One can only imagine what the live readings could be like.

It is easy to meander through the poems only to return to certain ones again and again. For me—and it was a difficult choice—it was the small collection of three-line poems entitled “Six Recurring Dreams,” my favourite being number five:

The dog of my childhood is put to sleep,
my parents do not bring her body home—
we bury sticks.

The reader is invited to see the world as Chelko sees it; it becomes a strange place and undeniably more fun. It transmutes into something bizarre and yet comfortingly familiar, like if the furniture of a well-frequented room was being changed in your absence. This is most evident in “After Tagore,” “Mid-Afternoon Woman Eating Potato Chips as Sunlight Throws Windows Across the Room,” and “The White Room,” among others.

This is a teasing, absolutely enjoyable read that taps a wellspring of joy in the reader that they might never have been aware of. Behind the fun and quirkiness, however, there is a rhythm and wisdom that can surprise and captivate. Highly recommended.

Official sunnyoutside press Web Site

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