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Minnesburen Eva Runefelt, Minnesburen (The Memory Cage)

Albert Bonniers förlag,  2013.

Reviewed by Anna Tebelius in SBR 2014:2

Review Section: Poetry

Eva Runefelt’s latest collection of poetry, nominated for the 2014 Nordic Council Literature Prize, attempts to seize and unravel memories of a childhood, memories that have been carried within and which have shaped the poet. It captures dream-like instants, remembered touches, scents and moments filled with colour. It is a meditation on time, the present and the past existing in an ever-entangled flow through which the poet strives to understand how all our experiences pass through us, shaping us and making us who we are.

The title Minnesburen reflects this desire. It can be understood both as ‘the memory cage’ and ‘memory-carried’ (‘buren’ being both a noun and the past participle of the verb‘to carry’). As a cage where the memories can be contained, carried along, always present; both a prison where the poet is held captive and a box to be unlocked when needed. But when carried by the memories the poet is instead pushed forward, held together and supported.

The collection is divided into three sections. The first and longest, ‘Barndomligt’ – ’Childhoodish’ – is written in poetic prose, the words veering here and there in a fragmented manner to convey a child’s mind fluttering from one emotion to another, from one experience to another. Amongst these memory-shards lies the worst memory of all: the loss of a mother and the moving description of a child combing her mother’s hair after her passing and wishing that she could be combed into it, be braided together, become entwined. The second section, a single long prose poem entitled ‘Gåendeskrivandet’ – ‘The walking-writing’ – moves as the poet contemplates memories, describing how she has to walk, has to move for the day to pass, and what happens one day when she gets lost.The final section ‘Ögonblickligt’ – ‘Instantaneously’ – is a collection of more traditional poems merging the wandering words of the previous section and the fragmented memories of a childhood by catching the briefest of moments of eternity in the present. Here Runefelt’s memory cage is carried to completion. Perhaps in a distant nod to the non-linear movement of time in T S Eliot’s Four Quartets, the final poem represents this as it begins ‘Where we were is where we are – ‘Där vi varit är där vi är’. It finishes ‘...and where we were, there we are still’ – ‘... och där vi varit där är vi än’.

This is an unconventional biography by a first-rate poet in absolute command of her language. It is a singular collection of poetry in which the present is conveyed through the presence of the past.

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