"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold that no fire can ever warm me, I know that is Poetry" wrote Emily Dickinson. It that reflection of the world, that visual imagery were to be the sole definition of poetry, Savage Rose by Helle Gade, qualifies in flying colors. Helle is a great artisan of words and makes a great fabric of visual imagery.
She begins the book with 'Idun', her first poem. She writes,
"The Old elder tree blossoms
Herbs break free of the ground
Bright green beech unfolding
and the swallow is chasing bugs."
The sensory liveliness is so noticeable, the imagery, one can even breath the smell of the picture she draws. Edward Hirsch wrote in his book, "The words move ahead of thought in poetry. The imagination loves reverie, the day-dreaming, the capacity of mind set in motion by words, by images." That is what poetry is, that is what Savage Rose is all about, picturesque words, grand sensual pleasure of worthy literature.
I had read this book some time back. Poetry you do not read once. Especially, good poetry you need to read twice, for the meanings to sink in and for letting your own self to sink into the magic of written words. That is when you stop interfering with the pleasure of being overwhelmed in the truthfulness of the words. I read it again today. I tasted the wholesomeness of the poetry. When you read it second time, the sublime beauty of the words do not interfere with the truth they tell. They are the vehicles on which emotions ride, they are the grand carriage of the passenger. In the second reading, you take note of the passenger, understand her. When you read her poem 'Mourning', the sadness, the poignancy touches you so that you feel your heart pulsating within with a new vigor. It suddenly finds echo in the words you are reading and you feel the presence of the read beast inside your breast, as if for the very first time. She writes in 'Mourning'
"My heart is bleeding
I cannot breathe
Tears burn in my eyes,
and my throat hurts."
It attains a rare physicality of emotions through simplicity and honesty of the words. Helle is not a poet in search of her seat in literary greatness, she comes across a soul troubled by her own emotions, pushed by surging feelings to write them down. She is not the one to be bothered by ornamental words, She does not stop to pluck a flower to adorn her verse. The inherent truth of her emotions render eternal beauty to her verses, is the soul of her songs. She even admits to the helplessness of the poet, which every poet blamed of vanity as a reason for writing will find resonance in when she writes
"The voices start
as silent whispers
rising in a crescendo
as more and more join in
they are all desperate
Now shouting to be heard."
She writes with noticeable sense of urgency
"My fingers are drumming
A tribal rhythm on the keyboard
words flashing across the screen
Faster and faster."
Her words chase the emotion and an enchanting race continues. The reader holds her hand, one moment we are walking, another running in the open fields, laughing, crying, like little children, basking in the bright sunlight of rare innocence. Then Helle turns philosophical, the mystic thought of dualism of the soul, the two people living in a body- the good and the evil. In her poem 'My Demon', she writes,
"When I speak, he steal my words
when I am silent, He speaks for me,
When I walk, he trips me."
And as a reader, we read mesmerized, we recall our own demon with which we wrestle everyday. Then, there are some poems in the collection like 'Frozen Pictures', 'Enough' and 'Burn for You', which are too personal, hitting closer home, almost autobiographical. The pain is to private, and therefore too haunting. It lingers for long and one wants to embrace the writer for such brutal honesty. When she writes,
"Who is that woman?
The one that always look tired
with the blue circles around the eyes
and the pale, almost translucent skin"
You read those words in whispers, and notice the palpable pain, the longing, the moment of defeat and a defiant search for emancipation as she writes,
"I do not deserve this,
and I will not accept it.
This stops now
before we break each other."
It is a rare book, an immensely pleasing collection of Poems which will ring into your conscious long after you have read it. And yes, you need to read it at least twice. Brilliant work by an exceptionally talented Poet. "Mere air, these words, but delicious to hear" I quote Sappho here.
Amazon Link to Savage Rose
Author's Page: Helle Gade