Review: “The Girl Who Came Back” by Meg Eden

The Girl Who Came Back

Publisher: Red Bird Chapbooks | Author: Meg Eden | Buy: From Publisher | More: Interview

There’s a great deal of evidence that, during the years in which it operated, the Enchanted Forest theme park in Maryland, USA was something particularly special. How many other defunct theme parks have their own preservation society, dedicated to rescuing and restoring the original attractions? How many have celebrated their fiftieth anniversary ten years after their apparent demise? And how many have inspired a single poem, let alone an entire chapbook of them?

Over the course of the twenty-one poems which make up her most recent chapbook The Girl Who Came Back, Meg Eden explores the history of the Enchanted Forest theme park, and examines closely the part it plays in the life of her and her mother. The mother’s nostalgia is especially palpable; she speaks about the characters of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty “the way girls talk about the friends / they go to the bathroom with,” and although she might forget where she left some clothes, or whether or not she turned the heating off, she will never forget “the distance between the barn and the boat, / between her favorite princess’ cottage / and the gift shop she could only look at”.

Eden is deft in her evocation of memory, and some of her descriptions are almost achingly nostalgic and beautiful. In “Lessons From Enchanted Forest” she describes a number of the park’s more interesting features and ends with the lines:

“…look closely—
one day, you’ll hold these images
in your mouth like orange slices.”

It would be difficult to find an image that conveys more succinctly and more perfectly how treasured her mother’s memories of the park are. This is reflected further by the sheer wealth of detail with regards to the features of the Enchanted Forest. By the end you’ll have come to know the Cindarella castle, the barn, the boat and the gift shop as though they belong in your own distant memory.

Eden herself is, of course, one step removed from the park. It was very much a part of her mother’s childhood and not her own – but she manages to avoid writing an entire collection about someone else’s experiences by dedicating some of the later poems to the Enchanted Forest after its closure. She writes about accompanying her mother on a visit to the now-defunct site, and includes a couple of poems inspired by the graffiti which now adorns the Hansel And Gretel House. One of my favourite pieces is about finding a broken gingerbread man impaled on the branch of a tree. It’s a wonderful comment on memory and loss and forgetting.

The Girl Who Came Back is a brief collection, but manages a surprisingly wide emotional range, while remaning admirably focussed in its scope. Read about Enchanted Forest here. Absorb the pictures, the forgotten memories. Then go and read Eden’s poems. You won’t regret it.

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Christopher Frost is a writer from the North of England. He works as a copywriter for a charity, and in his spare time writes book reviews.