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This review is taken from PN Review 91, Volume 19 Number 5, May - June 1993.

TRAVELLING Bo Carpelan, Homecoming, translated from Finland-Swedish by David McDuff (Carcanet) £7.95

Bo Carpelan has been an experimental writer, and I didn't care for him much in those days, but at least since the sixties, he has found his true form as a creator of short paradoxical perceptions and meditations that seep up from the part of I that is a considerer of unconsidered trifles:
      

At the table your figure,
over your hand the shadow of the child's
     head, a fruit,
your gaze through the window fixed to
     the trees' movements,
the movements mirrored in the knife that
     cuts the bread,
the use and clarity of things.


Defamiliarization - depersonalization almost - forms the poetic occasion, and this complete poem is a notation of a mind suddenly emptied of memory.

The child - presumably his child - is a fruit on a par with a fruit, a shadow, the movements in the trees, the reflections in the knifeblade; and your figure and hand are his own - a third-person convention that is not a convention here: they are things among things, like their use and their clarity.

Chekhov advised, don't try to describe the whole forest at night: just show the moonlight reflected in a piece of broken glass. Carpelan shows an army:
      

Reflected in a shattered windowpane
the army passes by and disappears
in the town that closes up, in the wound
...


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