Limen, by Susan Hawthorne.
Limen, by Susan Hawthorne. Melbourne, Australia, Spinifex Press, 2013. Art by Jeanne Brown.
AUSTRALIAN WOMEN WRITERS
An elegant little book of simple poems that tell the stories of two women and a dog who get caught in a flood when camping.
I knew Susan Hawthorne was an Australian poet, occasional blogger, and the director of Spinifex Press, but I am not a poetry person and had never read her books. I did not expect to enjoy this one. A book in verse sounded to me like something by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Thankfully, that not how Hawthorne writes. I was captivated. When I first opened the book, I literally started reading and didn’t stop until I finished it. I loved this book, but have trouble saying why.
The blurb by American feminist Robin Morgan sums up my thoughts about this book:
An adventure tale in verse spare as haiku and seductive as undertow. Ominous, riveting, beautiful. And exquisitely illustrated
In my more prosaic language, Hawthorne gives us a gentle tale, told alternately by the two women and their dog. Their story is told a day at a time. As the water raises, the women pack and look for routes out. The dog swims. Although the women move in and out of panic, the dog stays calm making comments like, “I stretch out next to your nervous body.” The group run into others also seeking to escape the water, but none of them are given voices. Each page has only one speaker and sometimes only a few words. There are no caps and no punctuation. No one is named. I assume this is about a lesbian couple, but the issue of sexuality is never raised. Scattered throughout are a variety of black and white pictures, a bird, tire tracks, insects, always just right aesthetically.
The title, Limen, means threshold, the place in between. The book records the three’s experiences of being caught on the various edges.
this tiny crack
in our lives
wind and rain strewn
stranded on the limen
that space between
water and sky
rain and sun
cold and heat
This book is about a danger that turns into an adventure, but its impact on me was one of calmness and gentleness. I am not sure how that is achieved, but I came away from it feeling soothed and hopeful.
I heartily recommend this book, especially to those who think they don’t like or understand poetry.
Thanks to Spinifex Press for sending me this book to review. It was a delicious surprise.