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Agneta Pleijel, Mostrarna och andra dikter (The Aunts and other poems)

Norstedts,  2004. ISBN: 911301353X

Reviewed by Silvester Mazzarella in SBR 2005:1

Agneta Pleijel's first volume of poetry for twenty years has many sources. Some of the poems are recent, others reworkings of earlier material, in some cases first published elsewhere and now collected here. Memories of childhood and more recent travel, of a father's death, of dreams, and not least of the Odyssey of the poet's mother-in-law who was born Jewish, caught up in the wartime convulsion of the Warsaw ghetto and the threat of Auschwitz. Then, after becoming a Catholic convert, eventually buried in a Swedish churchyard by a female Lutheran priest. At the heart of this collection of unpretentious but often deeply felt poems are a handful which meditate on the lives of two maiden great-aunts whom the poet herself hardly knew, but who survive in the hundreds of letters that passed between them and in the old photograph reproduced on the dustjacket of the book: "Deras okända drömmar./ Deras burriga och flygande hår/under de små lustiga hattarna/som bars långt fram i pannan./ Deras ogifta och ensamma liv..." (Their unknown dreams./ Their wild frizzy hair/ under funny little hats/ worn well forward on their heads./ Their unmarried and solitary lives...) Perhaps the collection is best summed up by the introductory short poem inspired by a visit to a museum of Egyptian antiquities: the past always lives on in the present, because though time passes, human nature is always the same. "En liten tjänsteflicka bär en sval vattenkruka/ i famnen utan att spilla en droppe./ Hon ser hastigt åt mitt håll." (A little serving girl carries a cool pitcher full of water/ in her arms, not spilling a drop./ And glances quickly in my direction.)

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