April Frances Federico’s The Disappearing Act is a poetry collection that explores themes of feminism, personal autonomy, and the quest for self-love, while also invoking cultural icons like Princess Diana, Audrey Hepburn, and the character Carrie Bradshaw.
The collection includes 23 free-verse poems bracketed by a prose prologue and epilogue (“Closing Story: A Good Story is Hard to Tell [with apologies to Flannery O’Connor]”). It shows the most promise when Federico employs specific literary techniques, such as metaphor and anaphora. For example, each stanza of “Silhouette” begins with the phrase “Long distance” as Federico conjures the experience of a long-distance relationship through metaphor, e.g: “Long distance is a string of two cans—/ poorly constructed and easily broken […]// Long distance is a balloon with a message attached […]”.
Unfortunately, much of the collection reads like diary entries, documenting experiences and impressions from the speaker’s life without notable attention to technique. The writing too often relies on telling rather than showing. For instance: “She stayed in my room and talked for hours. And on that fateful/ September day,/ She told me she indeed felt a sense of passion/ for me,” and “I have anxiety and PTSD,/ depression that shoves me into such a deep/ hole of misery that I can’t get out of bed.”
The collection also lacks a clear structure, with poems ping-ponging from older references to Henry David Thoreau, the Gettysburg Address, and Flannery O’Connor to contemporary riffs on Chicken Soup for the Soul (“Manly Stew for the Sexist Soul”) and the television series Sex and the City. Since the subtitle indicates the book will trace “a journey of how a poetess grew up,” readers are primed for a chronological progression in the speaker’s life, but no such timeline is identifiable.
While not yet a collection that will appeal to serious readers of contemporary poetry, Federico’s poetry shows potential. Greater use of poetic tools and a more unified theme would help to enhance this work.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.