Aase Berg (trans. Johannes Gorannson)
Aase Berg’s DARK MATTER (trans. Johannes Gorannson) has left me garbled and pale, grasping stripped skin. I entered this book. The first entrance was a stumble and an engrossment of wonder. Berg’s word-shards snap, form space: frozen, tremor, horror, stillness. The second entrance was from last poem to first. I shuddered no less, felt a vague inability to articulate solid meaning in any cohesive way other than by the weak phrase, “splendid void.” My mouth drips. Splendid, though, is the mastery of Gorannson’s translation whose own work gratifies and haunts. We are in fine hands. The third entrance (night/kitchen/blue light/hall): poems out of order as if this reach would somehow wrap my tongue around the fullness hole. I read poems like, “Cryptogram,” “Aniara,” “Rubber Cathedral,” “Glass Deer.” I remain pale with little air. These, my first encounters with Berg’s voidscapes, have wounded me beautiful. I am a pile of flesh. I have slipped, willfully, towards dark matter.
DARK MATTER refuses access to the main chamber. Tentacles. Deer. Leatherface in the dark. The shreds, snuff images of these spaces, this body in transition, this hybrid longing leaves me bewildered and smiling to Alexander, to Zachris, to the nameless others.
She speaks poems like “In Darkful Lande:”
Lights burn in a darkful lande.
Here the dogs of Dovre, their cold wails.
Hear the shriek of the tall fires,
hear the wings of pain drag
across the land.
The tone presented here, this ominous world in ruin, has begun to seep, does not end in silence. I cannot shut the book. Float. Dissect. Trace love to the most inward parts of the empty shell. Through these poems it is the body and the places of the body and how the body collapses under longing that I felt so intimately in passages like, “I now lick my tongue against the outer claws of the fingers to tear life into the ions, to make sores bitter in the tongue’s blue ventricles.” The tongue of the reader must speak (tongue) this line to the desolate horror-zones, where Berg gnaws, splatters traces from the inside. She writes, “The darkness of matter is soundless.” My mind refuses to hold.
In the section, “Cathedral Formations:”
When a tool or a machine part has burst,
the fracture surface is usually investigated to determine
if it is fine-grained or coarse-grained.
Broken, I have no way to wrap myself around Berg’s shell, but to sink in wonder. I wonder how, to the poet or the character of these poems, this may be wisdom or a warning or a love-trail of abandonment. And if these lines deceive you, too, know that to enter DARK MATTER is to drift in a zone where terrors bubble up, fester. It is not an easy space to enter. Prepare. Judging by the inadequacy of the words written here today, it is a much harder thing to articulate in terms of a “review.” Perhaps these pieces are “The temptingsondepth’s hearing” of its own howls. This is how space would sound if you were enclosed in a shell, a shell to float into the black of space. There we could be silent knowledge. It could be there, in a poem, where we finally disappear.