I am back for Poetry Friday! Early this week, we just launched our new reading theme until end of June 2018: Memoirs, Biographies, Self-Constructed (or First-Person) Narratives. Thank you, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater of The Poem Farm, for hosting this week,
I try to be as strategic as I can when I hunt down titles, especially since we are hosting the Literary Voyage Around the World Reading Challenge – and this will be a lovely addition, seeing that it’s an international title from Norway. The poems are also written in the first person narrative – as if providing some instructions or advice to its reader – perfect for our reading theme too.
Written By: Synne Lea Illustrated by: Stian Hole
Published by: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (2016). First published November 1st 2013.
ISBN: 0802854583 (ISBN13: 9780802854582). Literary Award: Brageprisen Nominee for Children’s and Young Adult Literature (2013). Borrowed from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
I am a huge fan of Stian Hole’s picturebooks – I reviewed his award-winning Anna’s Heaven a few years back and am absolutely taken by his Garmann series. I have a special leaning towards Norwegian titles, after being exposed to quite a number of them while serving as International Research Fellow at the International Youth Library in Munich. I know that they can be edgy, progressive, and without borders in its narrative and visual storytelling.
This book is slightly different since the poems are written by a Norwegian poet that is unknown to me, but the art work is still as delightfully surreal, as is the trademark of Stian Hole.
Truth be told, I read this book thrice now, but I still am unable to completely grasp what it signifies. The essence seems to be the philosophical meanderings of the main protagonist who is battling his own fears and anxieties, describing his family in a way that tears open the fabric of their soul without really providing any details to the reader about who they are exactly; and his yearning for a friend, or just someone who will listen and understand.
This is not really what one would call a novel-in-verse – but neither is it strictly a picturebook. I think it carves a niche of its own – something like poetic vignettes – each page a fragment of a thought told in imagery wrapped around in verse, but with a continuity to it, a thread that connects all the philosophical musings and poetic narratives into a feeling, a sensation that fights the darknesses through a night guard of sorts. This predilection towards existential inquiries could be seen in the quote below:
Because clouds look like something,
are they dreams?
Because dreams exist,
do clouds look like something?
There seems to be an appreciation of the life of the mind: be it among seemingly-inanimate beings such as trees. The idea of a tree’s thoughts as a song warms my heart.
There is continuously a mention of the weather, and how it brings certain emotions into light. There is the hint of summer below:
Then there is winter, and its concealed sadness:
What I loved especially, though, and my Poetry Friday offering are these two:
All you need is a friend now
and you’re big enough
to walk home alone
in the evening, Dad says.
Then you’ll learn
how to rip up the dark
with your hands and throw it at anyone
you think is following you.
How empowering is that: the very idea of ripping up the darkness in one’s hands, using your own fear as a weapon against that which scares you. How utterly brilliant.
Am I awakened
by you because I’m dreaming
First my friend
laughs, and afterward
Then the laughter is
precisely long enough.
I can wind it
three times around my neck,
and get it to warm me
half the winter.
I get that this book may not necessarily be for everyone – some may find it too obscure or too strange or too disconnected. Yet, its realness spoke to me, its ability to string together words I would not otherwise have considered, and this curious way of perceiving the world with quiet longing, with winding laughter that warms another all through the winter, and the sense of awakening brought about by dreaming about one’s self. There is something about this book, I hope it manages to find you.
#LitWorld2018GB Update: Norway