romanian literary monthly

~Kirsten Thomson: Complete Candour and „Absolute Freedom“

Gabriela Pachia’s A Shackled Prisonnière, the author’s first volume of her own poetry, is an impressive and deeply felt examination of the self, the soul and the wider world. Using powerful emotions, and pushing the boundaries of language, Gabriela Pachia provides a complex, intense and brutally honest exposé of herself.

Throughout the volume, the author clearly signals her view of herself as inextricably linked with nature and the earth itself. In ‘Self Portrait’ she makes this plain in the opening lines:

I am the last versatile birch

with smooth white bark

in the park overrun by shrubs.

This is further expanded in ‘The Padlocks of Immortality’ where each teardrop not only represents those close to her, but contains geographical features, ‘hill and valleys’.  However, this is not a random part of the earth.  Gabriela Pachia’s vision of herself and her family is specific to her home country.  This is Romanian earth:

yielding red-yellow-blue rhymes

and Carpathian Dracos…

‘Hang-Gliding’ demonstrates a tie with the country at the very deepest levels,

I’ve darted on the Danube River, always back

to the roots wreathed in the Latin alphabet…

‘Sense of Smell’, meanwhile, describes an awareness of Romania being a major presence since childhood:

I commenced by looking into the dog’s eyes,

then in the mirror of the Carpathians’ rivers…

This vision of everything being part of nature and the country then allows Gabriela Pachia to provide striking and unusual images, such as in ‘Flight of Prey’, where the bird’s flight is longer than a ‘childlike smile’. This also lends greater power to the author’s references to God, most of which are simple and heartfelt. In this world of nature, God is yet the overall ruler:

‘Oh Lord, help me arrive home safe and sound !’

‘What a blessing that Lord God was around… !’

A Shackled Prisonnière is eloquent in its love of the natural world, of Romanian patriotism, of religious faith and of family. Above all, however, it is Gabriela Pachia’s use of language that is the most remarkable aspect of this volume. Her ability to explore words in unexpected contexts paints some astonishingly evocative pictures, such as in ‘Times of Convulvus Arvensis’:

We are angelic morrow-moulds, yin-yang wings,

flapping on the millennium’s keyboards,

Syllables scanned into the rainbow,

sprouting baskets with fruit…

Despite giving herself total liberty with the words, the author never strays into meaningless excess; each vision is deliberately painted and linked in with her overall framework, whether calling out in distress, answering a question, or expressing love and joy. 

Pachia thus not only breaks down the barriers of orthodox language, but couples it with her own complete candour to give extraordinary emotional power. The final cry of the title poem amply demonstrates her freedom of both feeling and speech, which combine to such an effective whole in this impressive début:

A scientist – a foolish jailer there –

a fissure in my heart’s sky has laid bare

and coated it with plaster. Oh dear me !

A shackled prisonnière !


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