Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Aase Berg's With Deer

In speaking about With Deer I will try to defy the hyperbole and the self-induglent metaphor used to review and blurb books these days, but I may fail.

I think this book is powerfully original and cohesive.

I have been processing the book slowly. The first poem was a shock to me, and since I've had longer to think about it than about the others, I will address it in the post. Then I will probably write a longer review for another site or for some unsuspecting print publication if possible.

The poem itself...

His fingers search the bottom of the tarn for the water lily's black vein. Still the love beast breathes. Still he suckles the fox sore on my weak wrist. In the distance the wind is slowly dying: the night of nights is coming. But still the fetus lily rests untouched. And still his fingers search the bottom of the tarn for the water lily's black vein.

Addressing this poem, I should say that the first line's immediacy and clarity seized me. I doubt seriously whether this poet would cite Seamus Heaney as an influence, but I feel that kind of relationship to the natural world here. What follows pleasingly breaks that idea down.

The love beast breathes, suckles the fox sore. We see perhaps a love beast injured, breathing to the narrator's surprise. And we wonder what a fox sore is and why it would be suckled. I looked around online for some explanation of what fox sore would mean in Swedish, but I found out that it just means "we're reading an inventive and bizarre poem."

Then the wind is slowly dying - an unfortunate cliche here. But I think writers are not supposed to care about the occasional lazy phrase anymore. Doesn't make sense to me, especially in a short poem. The night of nights is coming; this line sets the tone for the book. What she's created here is an atmosphere of the wounded, the half-healing, the natural world taking over and yet falling apart. What happens to daylight in Sweden during winter might have something to do with this.

The lily becomes an untouched fetus, an unformed entity which would not respond well to being fingered by the man. Or "his fingers." And the lily's vein eludes those fingers at the end. The delicate is evasive, and the source of beauty, perhaps rotted itself, is still inviolate. Still. Nothing has really changed.

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