Wahlström & Widstrand, 2013.
Reviewed by Anna Tebelius in SBR 2014:1
Review Section: Fiction
With Tre Vägar (Three Routes) the poet Katarina Frostenson has written a hybrid text combining prose poem, journal, autobiography and travelogue. Described by its publisher as ‘words en route’, it is a fragmentary pilgrimage to three seemingly disconnected places. In the first passage, ‘Svartmålningen’ (The Black Painting), Frostenson takes the reader to the area where she grew up, one she has written about in previous poetry collections. In ‘Strandränderna’ (The Sand-Lines), she explores a recurrent theme in her poems: the shoreline, the beach and the sand formed by the elements. Finally, ‘Konstvandringen’ (The Art Hike) recalls a journey to see a painting that has captivated and inspired her.
I used the word ‘pilgrimage’ because it connects the three routes taken for the sake of wandering. Walking is as important as the goal, the creative process of writing as important as the poem. It is through the idea of the journey and the pilgrimage that I can understand this book. Each section touches upon something essential in Frostenson’s writing – the idea of being in the moment, of describing a state.
The word pilgrim comes from the Latin peregrinus, meaning foreigner. From this, a group of devout itinerants, who set out in the early years of Celtic Christianity to found monasteries and churches on the wildest, most inaccessible parts of the British and Irish shores, were named as peregrini. Robert Macfarlane describes their desire to seek out the wilderness as a longing to achieve correspondence between faith and place, between inner and outer landscapes. Their poetry spoke of an intricate and precise relationship with nature and their pilgrimage was to seek the wild to find their faith.
Frostenson becomes a pilgrim, a peregrine, when she attempts to describe her own inner and outer landscapes and evoke for the reader both a wilderness and an otherness. In Tre vägar, this desire is manifested in the three diverging routes, each singing to the reader about intersecting aspects of what make up Frostenson’s poetics.
The first and longest fragment touches me most by its personal intimacy and the glimpse it offers of the workings of the poet’s mind. As the poet discovers her own words crossed out, graffitied over, on a plaque in recognition of her, it initiates remembrance of past beginnings. Underneath the obscured words, other words emerge, about her mother and about being from ‘here’. We follow a route through a familiar landscape, its poetic topology charted in previous poems. It starts with remembrance for me, too. As I read, I realise that I recognise the bridges, abandoned spaces and tower-blocks. They are equally mine. I, too, have left the same suburbs behind. It ends with a Bach concert in Uppenbarelsekyrkan – the Church of Revelations – near to where I was born, high above the city.
In its poetics, Tre vägar certainly reveals more about the poet Katarina Frostenson than a traditional biography could. It allows the reader to join her on a pilgrimage through a personal inner landscape of rhythm, inspiration and language, where she is still wandering.