Dragon Child by Marina Sánchez, Review #30

-Reviewed by Claire Trévien-


Marina Sánchez’s Dragon Child is a handsome pamphlet with a dusky pink cover complete with the image of a dragon sculpture that reminds me of a brain. This is apt as the poem concerns Sánchez’s daughter, born in the year of the dragon with CHARGE syndrome, a complex cluster of conditions. As Sánchez states in her introduction: ‘The intelligence of children with multiple health issues is often underestimated’, a message spread throughout the pamphlet.

There is a chronological pathway to the pamphlet, early poems are concerned with the diagnosis, and particularly the inappropriate ways in which news is delivered to them by medical staff:

We met doctors who spoke

their language at us,
requiring one signature.
We bled the dotted line

There is also the giddiness of the doctor diagnosing her as having CHARGE, she happily

finally strikes the page,
she looks satisfied, her suspicions confirmed,

as though she’s dispelled an awkward mystery

Further on, the doctor telling them their daughter is deaf ‘doesn’t even sit down’, the news is left like a ‘rush of air on my face’. It seems to be less frustration at the care provided to her daughter than the way in which news is delivered.

A couple of poems are so keen to tell you information, that I feel hard-pressed to call them poems. ‘Battleaxe’ for instance, is so dry, that I wish the line breaks had just been done away with, and its informative purpose acknowledged:

I have called meetings with the LEA’s Inspectors,
who denied categorically my daughter
was being bullied, after all she attended a school
that was a beacon of excellence, where there was no bullying.
His complacency made no difference to me.

Dragon Child has an educational as well as a poetical purpose, and perhaps making more obvious space for the former would mean only keeping the stronger poems. There are quite a few standouts too, such as ‘Skirt’, or ‘Her Neural Pathways’, which happen to sit next to each other in the pamphlet, both capturing beautiful moments of intimacy:

but stumbling on the crunch
of syllables, words elude her

and we’re left stranded
in her remote landscapes

(‘Her Neural Pathways’)

This December, I have given myself the task of reviewing one pamphlet a day to raise money for next year’s Saboteur Awards. You can help by donating, or sharing the link using the hashtag #pamphletparty. I am not sure how this month is going to go, some pamphlets will be easier than others. I have given myself the aim of writing at least 300 words for each, a lower word-count than the usual reviews on Sabotage, in the hopes of making it more manageable!