The Cat Comes and with her the Garden: Brit Shneuer
Brit Shneuer’s self-published collection is an intimate journey through nature in which the poet explores, meditates on and finds her inner voice as she connects with the environment. It is a multi-faceted yet simple progress towards self-awareness, a slow process that implies sudden surprising discoveries. The collection is divided into three sections: ‘Walking’, ‘Witness’ and ‘Inclusions’. A good number of the poems are about walks through woods or grassland in all seasons, but especially in summer.
Nature seems alive; it surrounds her, protecting and healing. Walking is a continuous movement of discovery that goes in parallel with the changes that happen in the environment. Plants, trees, stones and the needles on the ground communicate their presence to the poet and to the reader. The walks are like prayers, “an invitation to delve into the whole”, which is a mysterious reality that can be understood only by intuition:
It’s a walk of acceptance of what I cannot change.
I tuck it under my earth; the earth I’ll leave behind.
The rest is vacant,
pale blue as the sky, open ended.
I rest on the earth, whispering
to reach beyond the wildness of form
a lullaby, an incantation:
No harm; it is safe; it is good; we can meet.
(‘The living ground’)
This reality is not only surprising but also complex. Nature is in bloom but the flowers can be “whacked by the heat/… ripped/crownless.” They wither and we need to accept that. Therefore, her walking also becomes a walk of acceptance that unveils a cry and a sense of longing:
There’s a longing.
A voice bursting out to be heard.
Something yearning to open,
an unspoken part
(‘There’s such a cry’)
Shneuer’s poetry has the soft quality of thoughts that are profoundly meditated on and then whispered to the reader in precise imagery that surprises them, like an epiphany. They convey a mild wisdom and a sense of resilience and peacefulness in a harmonious setting. The Mediterranean flora and fauna emerge in their blooming delicacy – there are shining olive trees, dry needles and a lizard. They communicate vitality in simple images that denote keen observation and insightful descriptions.
The sections ‘Witness’ and ‘Inclusions’ develop more intimate thoughts and existential questioning that culminate in the opposite concepts of ‘resting’ and ‘flying’, ‘stillness’ and ‘walking’. It is an almost mystic vision in which the spirituality of the self expands in the holiness of beauty. In this way, Shneuer conveys sensations and impressions rather than tangible experiences; she observes the harmony of the surroundings which is in communion with her:
I listen to the silence before sound,
remember who I am before I became,
bypass illusions far and away.
In the utter stillness
reaching out returns
An inner compulsion asks,
how is this beauty
(‘The cat comes’)
It is a comprehensive vision, “a temporary/compound of”, an offering. Her presence is a witnessing that listens to nature and to her inner voice, creating a space that explores the relation with the environment and with the other. The final poem, ‘Departure’, which is about her mother’s death, explores the closeness of their relationship as well as the poet’s diving “in uncharted waters,/yielding to what has been so far unfelt”. She kisses her twice before she dies, an act that frees them both via a spiritual bond that concludes this enthralling collection. The journey is temporarily suspended, but at the same time it is opened up to further investigations that propose multiple readings and envisage more writing in the future.
Brit Shneuer, The Cat Comes and with her the Garden, £30 inc p&p
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