Snow like Silk around my Soul: Liv Johannesson

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Sincerity and openness characterise Liv Johannesson’s first collection. She first published her work on Instagram and was supported by her followers and also by the Greenwich Writers’ Group. Friends and followers not only helped her to redraft her poems but also selected the cover she created. Johannesson started posting her poems on Instagram in 2018 and then decided that “it was time to start sharing my poetry with a wider audience”. She self-published a short story in 2015, Let Me Tell You A Story While You Sleep, and has self-published Snow like Silk around my Soul, too.

The poetry collection is organised in chronological order and is divided into four sections that range from her late teenage years to her early adulthood, that is, from 1994 until 2019. The last part is a sequence of haiku dedicated to the seasons and composed in 2000. The poems are also illustrated by Johannesson’s delicate and exquisite drawings that enrich her work.

Most of her poetry is personal. The first section, ‘The Late Teen Years’, is characterised by crushes in which the pitfalls of romantic relationships swing between possession and freedom, desire and hate, involvement and the need to keep a distance:

 

     So tired

     a hole in my heart, blue is my soul

     let me sleep

     the stars may heal my heart

     snow like silk round my soul

 

     darkness is coming now

     maybe I’ll still be here

     when you come for me

                          (‘Let Me Sleep’)

 

A sense of loneliness pervades some of these poems. The need for love is hindered by moments of sadness provoked by delusions and broken relationships. A romantic yearning for emotional fulfilment often seems to be deluded, and these situations might cause moments of darkness:

 

     Suddenly it’s just there!

     A black empty hole

     that pierces through my heart

     growing in darkness and pain.

     Slowly, my mind mellows.

     My focus centres

     round the pain and blackness.

 

     Snap out of it!

     Snap out of it!

     But my mind will not.

                         (‘Darkness’)

 

She directly states what she feels and looks for solutions, sometimes instructing herself similarly to the protagonist of Alice in Wonderland:

 

     Endless roads

     entwine in my mind.

     Small stony paths

     lined with invading grass.

     Stone covered streets

     unevenly designed.

     Straight highways

     running black and hard.

                         (‘Roads’)

 

There is a “creative bone” that prevails each time she feels down, defying the moments when she “can’t find the reason to fight”. Maybe the reason for this is that she feels outside the norm; she does not “fit into the mould” and the fear of risk causes anxiety again and traps her in the shadows. These sensations are skilfully expressed in Johannesson’s poetry in a colloquial tone that simply and efficiently conveys her thoughts.

The final section presents a series of haiku about seasons:

 

     Tiny salty drops

     Like springs on my sunburn skin.

     Longing for water.

 

     Red and yellow leaves

     Rustling in the chilly wind.

     Seeking your warm hand.

 

     Crystal shiny snow

     Wrapping the sleeping houses.

     Emotions on hold.

 

     Cool spring afternoon.

     Sweet lilac fills the purple air.

     Memories of love.

 

The imagery is vivid and compelling, unusually beautiful. The collection offers remarkable poems that trace Johannesson’s journey from her teens to adulthood in an exploration that is interesting and profound. She develops her search in readable and original lines, looking for answers to the difficult and uncertain quotidian in which relationships might elude us. Though sometimes “the shadows grow longer”, she keeps believing in the importance of love and in “creative, intense days”’ that cast a significant light on her everyday life.

 

Liv Johannesson, Snow Like Silk Around My Soul, £9.99

 

 

 

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