Hélène Cardona’s Dreaming My Animal Selves. A Review.

Turning the pages of Hélène Cardona’s Dreaming my Animal Selves (Salmon Poetry, 2013), I found myself following salmons, trailing behind swans and watching elves sailing down the river on leaves. This bilingual collection is imbued with such an unparalleled grace that one cannot help feeling captured by Nature’s most holy places and creatures, as in Charles Baudelaire’s “Correspondances.” Surrounded by deer, hares and herons one indeed feels part of the Creation itself. The poet is herself part of it. No wonder leaves are so often referred to, no wonder vine surrounds the umbilical, no wonder the author rips the same vine in order to liberate the letters of her name until “they soar above the ocean/for the falcon to reclaim.” (from “Dancing the Dream.")

In “The Isle of Immortals” we learn that “the ultimate aim is reverence of the universe.” Despite the often referred to dreamlike atmosphere, this collection is deeply rooted in the need of declaring that the poetic word in communion with nature is immortal.  The holiness of the word seems to me Cardona’s aim and we are left entangled in Nature’s sacred spires, caught by the radiant brilliance of her imagery and lines. As we fall prey to the incantatory quality of her poems—among which “Peregrine Pantoum” is the highlight—we notice that the alchemist Cardona has done it again: her words made of nature, distilled into Beauty, are brought to us as precious gifts via her alembic pen.

I have truly enjoyed reading these poems in both English and French. Sometimes the French is even more beautiful than the English, if possible: “Ma raison d’être chimérique, caméléon,/excavéee des naufrages tel un talisman,/resplendissante fresque catapultée/au delà de fantasques frontières métaphoriques.” Cardona’s translative qualities allow her to beautifully deliver in both languages, making of her a Sorceress of the Word.

Peregrine Pantoum 

Begin with a dream, 
snowcapped mountains and rivers of salmon. 
Green rays cleave the heart of winter 
dancing at the edge of the lake. 

Snowcapped mountains and rivers of salmon 
echo laughter and lilac sonatas 
dancing at the edge of the lake. 
Fairy tales beckoning days on end 

echo laughter and lilac sonatas, 
my grandmother’s exquisite designs. 
Fairy tales beckoning days on end, 
wisdom and melancholy build fires, 

my grandmother’s exquisite designs 
engineered by elves. I sleep with fervor. 
Wisdom and melancholy build fires, 
myriad books and soulful dwellings 

engineered by elves. I sleep with fervor 
on slippery roads, frozen paths. 
Myriad books, soulful dwellings, 
enchanted forests ripen with children’s riddles. 

Slippery roads, frozen paths 
drive mazes of mind. 
Enchanted forests ripen with children’s riddles, 
exiles and travels, forced and chosen. 

Driving mazes of mind, 
tales of torture ring from the land of gods, 
exiles and travels, forced and chosen. 
Sirens and magic flutes ablaze, 

Tales of torture ring from the land of gods. 
Green rays cleave the heart of winter, 
Sirens and magic flutes ablaze. 
Begin with a dream. 


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