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Helsinki

Helsinki, as a collection, almost reads as one long poem. The poems are nearly uniform in length and line-length, all one-stanza, lacking punctuation, title-less. The poems are characterized by their drive, their unceasing motion that sweeps the reader along with it. It is the work of an author with focus; the collection’s themes are primarily on love and war. The love object, a reoccurring character, is Julia. The book first begins with discussing war and death:

Helsinki, as a collection, almost reads as one long poem. The poems are nearly uniform in length and line-length, all one-stanza, lacking punctuation, title-less. The poems are characterized by their drive, their unceasing motion that sweeps the reader along with it. It is the work of an author with focus; the collection’s themes are primarily on love and war. The love object, a reoccurring character, is Julia. The book first begins with discussing war and death:

In time I came to see death was the hay
binding one soldier to another and my own
death would appear partially lit as during
a nighttime operation the moon barely attends

Like his relationship with Julia, the speaker romanticizes death, creates his own more poetic and unrealistic death in his mind in order to confront the violence and unattractiveness of the death he sees, as a soldier, daily. Julia first appears in the second section (though there are references to a “she” in poems beforehand). The poem relates a fable type of tale for the origin of Julia, in Helsinki, the reoccurring setting of the poems:

[…] came her shoes well but not exactly like shoes
horses wear on Earth for one was named Julia
and as it came free of her hoof it too sprouted
wings from its own iridescence and like a naked
girl endlessly climbing a horse so Julia climbed
upon it

In the dream-like quality of the poem, Julia shifts from a shoe to a person, to, at the end, someone beside him telling him to “please go to sleep.” As the speaker remade death into a more fanciful, attractive version, so he remakes how he came to be with Julia, refashioning it into more of a myth or legend than possible and adding a mystery and magic to her as a person.

Helsinki keeps the reader captivated through its complex and surprising twists, the poems’ strengths in their strange and unexpected shifts.

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