How I Went into the Woods: Poems
by Lennart Lundh
70 Poems ~ 89 pages
Genre: Ekphrastic
Price: $20.00
Publisher: Kelsay Books
ISBN #: 978-1-63980-485-6
To Order: Kelsaybooks.com


Reviewed by Michael Escoubas

As if the title of Lennart Lundh’s ekphrastic collection isn’t enough to capture one’s attention, consider the cover image: it is John Bauer’s Princess Tuvstarr Gazing Down into the Dark Waters of the Forest Tarn (1913). Bauer’s painting is “evocative,” “mysterious,” and open to immense “speculation.” Each of these elements provides a creative banquet for Lundh in his latest collection How I Went into the Woods.


Layout and Style

There are no images in the book. Most poems reside on a single page with the artist’s accreditation placed at the bottom of the page. Lundh draws inspiration from diverse sources: I counted thirty paintings, over twenty photographs, and a variety of drawings, posters, film shorts, a statue by Franco Vianello, even fragments of newspaper articles from 1971 editions of the Chicago Tribune. All of these find their way into a collection that offers something new with every turn of the page. Googling the referenced art, lingering with it, then returning to its corresponding poem gave me a satisfying read. Stylistically, Lundh is a free verse poet. His attention to detail and his ability to weave details into tight narrative flows is superior.


Exhibits

The digital work Summer Day, by Christian Schloe, a study in surreal art, led to this poem by the same name:

          Garbed in gentle shades
          of beech bark and lilac,
          she sits on sturdy privets.

          Her cheeks are sun-kissed.
          Breezes weave dark hair.
          The clouds hold no rain.

          A curious bird observes
          the platter’s rotation
          on the old gramophone.

          The sound they hear
          is the ancient song
          of flowers praising light.

Note how scene and word become a unified whole. 

Who would think that an old scrap of newspaper could lead to poetry? It does. “More Mysterious,” gives the fragment a human voice:

          Being a scrap of newspaper found in a library book.
          Will anyone knowing the full story please get in touch.


The poem depicts the impossible-to-determine meaning from the fragment. Indeed, I was left wondering about the fragment’s flesh-and-blood people. Who were they? What became of them? Were they mere fragments, too?

“The Bride,” based on a painting by abstract pioneer Wassily Kandinsky, begins:

          She sits alone in her wedding gown.

Through the device of irony, the poem, in successive stanzas of couplet, tercet, and quatrain describes the bride, who now sits alone, unsure of where her husband is, or if or how he will return. Nevertheless,

          She sits alone with all the possibilities.


Thinking about Subjects and Titles

Lennart Lundh’s subject range is of special interest to me, as is his choice of title. In preparing this review, I spent hours scratching my head, trying to figure out what is meant by How I Went into the Woods. Authors frequently offer a “title poem” which serves as an umbrella for the whole collection. Nothing here. About his cosmopolitan range of interests: Lundh’s work shows a heart for people, for their sufferings, their backstories. 

Just as the bride in Wassily Kandinsky’s abstract painting, “sits alone with all the possibilities,” I feel the weight of Lennart Lundh’s heart. The “woods” represents, for me, the full range of life's experiences.

In “Lady in the White Business Suit,” the poet draws from a broadside poster seen in a post office at Long Beach. The poster lays bare attitudes often held by professing Christians:

          Listen, Christian: I was homeless,
          and you preached to me about the
          Spiritual Shelter of the love of God.


The poem is in the voice of the coffee shop owner:

          She was a lovely woman, not just in body
          but in spirit. One of my favorites, each day
          stopping for the Journal and A coffee, black,
          please. How’s your day? Thanks. See you tomorrow.


          Happy, successful. Well dressed and light perfume.
          And then she was wearing the same outfit two,
          three days in a week, with shoes looking worn and
          a whiff of alcohol instead of Parisian citrus.

          Passing on the Journal, spending hours at a time
          in a chair in the café, drinking water, staring far,
          far outside the window at her old skyline. Finally,
          blushing when I brought her coffee, Lost my damned job.

          After that, she came by once or twice more. Stayed out
          on the sidewalk, caging money and cigarettes. Sleeping
          in the park with one eye open through the summer, on
          into winter, when they found her asleep forever.
 

How I Went into the Woods will stand the test of time because it is about life . . . life, with all its possibilities


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