Friday, 18 October 2013

A Broken Mirror, Fallen Leaf

 
As Yvonne Blomer explains, the title for her first book of poetry published by Ekstasis Editions, a broken mirror, fallen leaf, depicts the idea that we cannot go back from a journey without transformation.
 
Crossing borders is more than boarding a plane and crossing geographical borders.  It is embracing another world – the people, language, culture – and accepting yourself as always being a fraction separate from that world.  Her book explores the barrier between cultural images that both divides and bridges the experience of being a Caucasian woman living in Japan.  She has the advantage of being an outsider to eavesdrop on situations that are both foreign and startlingly human. 
 
The book itself is divided into four sections, or seasons, of her journey: Four Seasons, Gaijin da (foreign person), Small Japan, and The Path Leading Home.  In Four Seasons, Blomer looks at these quiet barriers and an intimacy that occurs with the natural world, as seen in her poem “Crabs”.  The armchair reader is given a glimpse of sensual and historical Japan in “Onsen 1”, and is treated to a ‘fly on the wall’ account of tender relationship rituals holding everyday gestures of beauty and surprise.
 
In many of her poems, the language is sparse and full, all at once, such as in “Ofuco”.  There are near haikus, and small moments not to be forgotten that hold the universe, as in the poem “Ways of Seeing a Firefly”.  The variation of poem structures serves to capture each scene in its own organic rhythm.
 
Blomer also reveals a confessional side to her poetry, as in her connection with her own husband while adjusting to a new world and becoming more familiar with this landscape.  Still, the reader is aware of a sharpness in the contrast that is felt as an outsider invited, but not entirely belonging, as shown in the poem “Four Seasons in Japan”.
 
The second part of the book, Gaijin da, is a series of poems that are a kind of awakening.  These poems are jolting, yet subtle, and lend a braver, closer look at the surroundings and mysteries of Japan, such as in “Through the Temple with Buddha.”  Blomer delves into a more observational scope with these poems, and the sketches of the local people and activities.  She engages and comments largely on her own strangeness and peculiar presence to the Japanese, as seen in “The Bats Came in Place of the Swallows”.  Her four-part Ghazals piece together these abstract lines, trying to make sense of disjointed ideas, sights and movements.
 
Blomer has included a glossary in her book to help the reader navigate through this other world.  This added touch is a necessity, but also a gesture of invitation by the author to join her, and to stumble over these foreign sounds and make sense of them.
 
A broken mirror, fallen leaf is a journey in which a new life is adopted and, as with any new experience, we are never quite the same.