The book is called Mayflowers (Hrafnaklukkur – it’s “raven clocks” in Icelandic) and the poem is called “A Poem About the Love of Coffee.” It’s the fourth poem in the book, which starts with a quote from Søren Kierkegaard which is mostly about the self and the book is dedicated to the self: “To the self.” Weather that is the self of the narrator or the poet I don’t know, but it’s interesting that the poet only uses his last name on the cover, Kristian Guttesen is now only Guttesen.
But anyway, until now, in the first three poems, the location has been hard to pin down. We’ve mostly been outside, perhaps by the sea – but now it’s a bit more specific: we’re at a café. Until now the self had been ambiguous, floating – almost like a spirit, but here it’s more grounded. We’re at a café. The year is 2012. That probably doesn’t matter though: “I could mention that the year is 2012 but that’s not the main issue as I write down those lines.”
There is something charming about the need to be clear about what doesn’t matter, the poets need to record details, even if they’re insignificant. It tells you something about writing – wanting to edit everything unnecessary out, but still being compelled to keep some of it in. And dates and years are rarely unimportant, some are printed into the consciousness of most of mankind and others only into your own personal consciousness. 2012 was the year that _______.
You may fill in that empty line as you please – and even if 2012 was easily forgotten for you I’m sure all of us have years that are like strange cairns in your life. Years that don’t matter, yet …
But alas, we’re at a café. One more bloody coffee-poem, a bohemian romantic wank? Not quite, since the second part of this four-page poems takes place far from that café. Four pages isn’t terribly long though, it’s a small book and there’s only one paragraph per page.
We go back 25 years and then we finally get a real feel for that self that so far has been floating around the pages. The third paragraph is about a father who blackmails a young son, a young son who has just moved.
“I haven’t really built up the vocabulary yet to manifest my reaction to this quest and have also forgotten my Danish.”
Suddenly we realize he’s between worlds. Between words and languages and between two people. Perhaps he’s still there, perhaps he’ll always be there.
The final paragraph is about the mother that reprimands him for this previous incident.
“ […] and I’m stuck with feelings I have no words for.”
Feelings that are still there? At least not forgotten, 25 years later.
All this reminds me of a Turkish film I recently saw, a film about a man who can’t talk and drink tea at the same time, a Kurd lost between words. It also reminds me of a Syrian acquaintance who is worried that his children are falling behind in the European education system because they are between languages and even if they’ve escaped the war they’ve not escaped the lack of understanding in that European educational system.
The next poem is a sequel to this, it’s simply called: “Here there’s a cut to the previous scene” and it’s subtitle is “Int. A Poem About Coffee Love” – but for those who don’t know the traditions of screenwriting Int. means interior – a scene set inside. Ext. is exterior, the original idea was to use this to get a feel how expensive the screenplay would be, based on how much is shot outside and how much is shot insinde. It’s a nice experiment in a volume of poetry, the poems are connected in different ways and it would have been fun to go further into connecting them with those new methods.
During this poem there is ambiguous future that whispers. “You are here, we are your thoughts, the blood in the shower will cleanse you of your sins …”
Blood in the shower, a screenplay – is the self perhaps the self of Anthony Perkins? Don’t know if he knew any Danish though. Then you read on and get other ideas about the blood in the shower, you read “Interview” which is about a boat captain that knows how to earn the trust of young boys by allowing them to watched R-rated movies, allows them to steer his ship – and insists on having a fake fight with them in the evening.
“Then Tommy and me could only wear our underpants but the skipper himself was naked and in all the hustle his penis and his balls were all over the place. After that I don’t remember what happened.”
Text: Ásgeir H Ingólfsson