Cheryl Snell has collaborated with her sister, Janet Snell to bring forth an astute and staggering blend of poetry, science, and art in her Multiverse collection. Cheryl probes the evolving understanding of the physical world. Mulitverse, the title, is some what of a clever winking pun. It suggests the layers in poetry relate to the layers one finds in the scientific Multiverse concept. Multiverse, in essence, is a new theory claiming there is not just one universe but several, and some Physicists now think that there may be as many as eleven dimensions co-existing at once. In Multiverse Cheryl Snell pulls the string theory from physics and applies it to poetry. With the dramatic visual accompaniment of Janet Snell’s artwork, Cheryl takes the reader on an unexpected journey through the “The Natural Order of Everything.” This first poem of the sequence begins:
“It’s a trick. The sun aims wide-eyed light/though gauze breezes to filter out the truth”
Grounding the scientific concepts in concrete imagery the dimensions of existence are “filtered.” As light and dark can be measured mathematically and quantified in physics, so too can poetry measure light and dark in an attempt to quantify the affects of both. In her first poem, Cheryl attempts to “filter” out the truth of the light and the dark by using the metaphor of the predator the prey. She finds that words alone can fathom only part as she states, in conclusion, “I see there is no help for any of this/ I may as well start over.”
In trying to grasp the elusive meaning of nature and ones place in the natural world, Cheryl also explores relationships and the layers within those relationships. In her poem “Thermodynamics of Cooking Stone” she expresses the friction of co-existing as individuals in the binding construct of marriage. Rather then ending in a black hole she gives the reader a more hopeful image of togetherness:
“They’ll begin to satellite each other like shepherd moons/herding the rocks of Saturn’s rings/ around the low blue hum of heaven.”
The imagery Cheryl uses throughout this collection is startling and evocative. For example, in “Fight or Flight” Cheryl dares to tread the oft trod path of the “heart.” I have to say I approached the poem with prejudice having not read a poem, no, not one contemporary poem, with the word “heart” in it that I would say I felt was a successful poem. This poem, in my view, succeeds. Turns of phrase such as: “The tongue, stiff as road-kill…it also let’s the heart believe it can leap through the throat to freedom,” rejuvenates the bleeding heart cliché’ and turns it into something new.
On the intellectual side of things, one can see the influence of the concepts of physics in her poetry. In “Flicker Vertigo” she references the beginning of the universe and man’s attempt to comprehend his experience within this universe. She concludes with the mind bending statement “The brain fills in what’s missing, the blanks/ between light and light, a corrugated sky hanging over the theater’s false ceiling.” The impression of reality being a “corrugated sky hanging over a false ceiling” leaves me wondering what reality is. If the brain creates the missing blanks is this life a “false theatre,” a creation in our mind, or is the “false theatre” the existence outside of the mind? Cheryl’s collection is if full of such constructs which provoke exploration and discovery.
As a whole, Mulitiverse is a collection that satisfies both the intellectual and spiritual aspects of poetry. Cheryl Snell uses language with sensitivity and an intelligence that is as refreshing as it is profound.