Review of "End Of A Voyage - a Sailor's home is a tranquil bay", a new collection of poetry by Jan Oskar Hansen, Copyright 2007, 100 pages, softcover price: US$17.00. Published by Water Forest Press, New York, USA, www.waterforestpress.com ISBN 10:0-9723493-5-9; ISBN 13: 978-0-9723493-5-2.
This latest collection of poetry and short prose by Jan Oskar Hansen exemplifies immense personal and artistic maturity. I have elsewhere written about Hansen's genius as regards the art of storytelling, and this work is no exception. Hansen seems to re-set the bar with each book he writes - much like good whiskey .. improving with age and experience.
Having previously reviewed two other poetry collections by Hansen (Letters from Portugal and La Strada), I am somewhat familiar with both his writing style and his artistic progression. I am pleased to see that Hansen has (in this latest collection of poetry) successfully managed to combine poetic economy and succinctness with prosaic boundlessness; at the same time retaining his innate sense of literary rebelliousness, social and political commentary and overall evenness of quality.
Jan Oskar Hansen has what is referred to in Norwegian (the land of his birth and youth) as "bakkekontakt" (a sense of reality). Hansen's work often leaves an almost bittersweet chocolate aftertaste, with the effect that the reader is invariably left with a craving for more. Perhaps the most striking and enticing aspect of these short stories in poetic prose form is also that which makes them somewhat "uncomfortable": Hansen ingeniously presents contemporary issues and personal experience in a way that is immediately digestible, both honest and humorous in its portrayal of humanity; and which cleverly pulls the reader so easily into the reasoning of the stories told that one cannot help but to question one's own personal values upon reflection. His experiences and his viewpoints suddenly become those of the reader, and in order to satisfy the yearning to learn more about oneself one simply has to continue slavishly from poem to poem .. and perhaps even to take a second read-through upon reading the last words in the book.
The quality and genius of Hansen's writing speaks well enough for itself, but I will refer to a few examples from his book which I particularly like:
"Mother does the washing up at my place, only she has arthritis in her hands breaks a lot of glasses and plates, has backache too standing for hours bent over the sink; and anyway, as mother says: "It's time you get married, I can't go on forever, and you are not young anymore." So that's what I will do, when the moon is really full, ask the simple girl to marry me, and I'll send mother to a home for the infirm." (from "Harvest Moon").
There is but one vast ocean
with an ever changing name,
so much sea, so little land.
It is rising, turquoise death
nibbling at tropical islands;
beaches are moving inland,
a new Noah's Ark, a pair of
each, female/male and no gay
parade on her deck, drifting
on a clueless, windless ocean,
often called: "Nothing to see
but fucking water."
(from "The Ocean")
Hansen has also included several haiku in this collection. Two of the many fine examples follow:
As August heat wafts
Wayside weeds collect dust
For a rainy day
The grove's olive trees
Look like a vanquished army
Slowly marching home
In conclusion, I would heartily recommend End Of A Voyage - a Sailor's home is a tranquil bay to all who are looking for a reading experience that goes far beyond the boundaries of traditional poetry; reaching into the psychology and the humour of the human condition.
About the author:
Jan Oskar HansEN (Portugal) a Norwegian expatriate, has published a wealth of poems, including individual works published in various anthologies, on the internet, and three collections which previously have been published in book form: Letters from Portugal (BeWrite Books, UK 2003), Lunch in Denmark (Lightningsource, UK 2005) and La Strada (Lapwing, Belfast 2006).
- Literary criticism (2007) by Adam Donaldson Powell (based upon "End Of A Voyage - a Sailor's home is a tranquil bay", published by Water Forest Press, New York, USA, www.waterforestpress.com, ISBN 10:0-9723493-5-9; ISBN 13: 978-0-9723493-5-2.).