Hay-smelling heart

Issue 3/2001 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

In Eva-Stina Byggmästar’s poetry, everything is different, She writes highly original poetry whose harmony, breathing rhythm and naïvist imagery, rooted in the rural environment and nature, lodge in the mind immediately at first reading.

Byggmästar (born 1967) published her first collection I glasskärvornas rike (‘In the kingdom of glass-splinters’) at the age of nineteen, in 1986; her best-known works are För upp en svan (‘Put to flight a swan’, 1992), Framåt i blått (‘Forward in blue’, 1994) and Bo under ko (‘Live under co’’, 1997; Söderströms), known as the Joy trilogy. She has received a number of prizes in both Finland and Sweden, and a long-awaited translation of her selected poetry is to appear in Finnish in 2002.

Her eighth collection of poetry, Den harhjärtade människan (‘Hare-heart’, 2001), marks a distinct change of tone compared to the Joy trilogy. The speaker of the poems, a childish joker and cultivator of language, wanders through a subterranean forest of tears grieving over what is lost. Finally she withdraws from human company into the midst of nature and allows her wounded heart to change into a hare.

In this collection, Byggmästar no longer links her materials as capriciously as before, but achieves a correspondingly more homogeneous result. Cows no longer sit in tubs with thistles in their mouths or walk along arm in arm with horses; instead, the general tone of the imagery is more lyrical, more esoteric. The work breathes and touches, and is even frightening; its paw-prints have a delicate untamedness reminiscent of the work of Sirkka Turkka.

Included in the cosmos of Den harhjärtade människan are the green interior of the moon, the swelling buds of the rowan tree, invisible trees and transparant stones, doves and thickets, and Christ who, like the shy heart-hare, was a grass-eater. Like Christ, the hare signifies the ideal of humanity: one should run away and eat grass rather than lower oneself to fights and social games.

After metamorphosis, everything is different. The heart-hare sees another world – a different arrangement of the eternal verities – and nothing amazes or frightens the poems’ speaker any longer. In addition to Christian mythology, the poems also contain humorous Orphic references, as worms, those subterranean bards, sing their laments.

The core of the work expresses a desire to merge with nature and matter, to be something different from a human being in the rough world of the two-legged. Human consciousness and intelligence are burdens which grass and thistles do not need to carry. Escaped forever into the forest, the speaker is consoled as she burrows into the ground, the sand and the ash, in other words the interior of the moon. In this other, more real world, there is freedom in which one can wander and dream ‘of small colourful plants, / the endless summer forests of space.’


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