Verse. That’s the genre; it says so on the cover of Ideal Events. The pages lie before me like bedsheets, white, dotted with just a few lines, lonely and isolated. There is an alarming amount of space between these fragmented sentences, like an image of the star-filled void Gjessing is trying to describe. The book wrestles itself out of its own category; it does not want to be called a collection of poems. The space in between each poem stands out, working as poetry itself. But this is the spirit of Gjessing’s work.
Her text takes no responsibility for communication. So I’m left with a strange feeling. There is something here. But what? This is the kind of poetry that takes effort. I have to flip the book over and read it again, slowing down and tasting every little morsel. After another reading, I still haven’t found a narrative, but my sense of understanding the text on its own terms is slightly closer.
Gjessing is captivated by places, rooms and space, and she manages to give them a voice of their own. She removes the boundaries between the interior, the exterior and even the cosmos. At the same time she seems to be saying that everything can be sorted and arranged, even blank space has a place and a meaning. This work is a constant, cyclical transformation of pronouns and their relation to various types of space.
For me, poetry is a force that affects us, but which is inexplicable. Gjessing does this, not with rhyme and rhythm and well-chosen language, but with the white between the lines. It is as if this white is a wide, paper abyss between each line of poetry. Beauty is located there: and it is this that moves me. Take this line, for example: “Everything is divided: a child’s open throat on a bicycle ridden over cobblestones: å-å-å-å-å-å-å-å-å-å-å-å-å-å-å-å-å”. Here the Danish å (which sounds like the English /o/) is transformed into a tale of carefree childhood. That is what poetry can do: create an entire world out of something as simple as a single letter.
Gjessing’s poetry is about becoming free, accepting changeability, tasting language and enjoying the time we are given in this cosmos. This text is a universe of tiny suns that can be skimmed through one by one or studied as a whole.There is no end to the meanings and patterns we might see, and the chance that any of us will read the stars the same way is nil. We realise that “there is a universe in every well-sorted mind”. That is the landscape outlined by Signe Gjessing. Her book can prompt the same inexplicable awe as we feel under a starry sky, trying to understand the endless emptiness. Hers is a glowing language that echoes in an infinitely deep universe, verse, verse …
Reviewed by Max Martinussen
IDEALE BEGIVENHEDER (“Ideal Events”)
Written by Signe Gjessing
Published by Gyldendal, 2017
Max Martinussen studies Danish literature at the University of Copenhagen. His poetry has been published in Hvedekorn.