Darija Žilić, review of “Vineyards at Dawn” by Ksenija Premur

The new book of poems by the poet Ksenija Premur Vineyards at Dawn consists of several longer poems: Vineyards, Dawn, Daylight, Daybreak, Dawning, Moire and Wedding of Earth and Sky at Daybreak. The author builds on the previous book The Lighthouse. The fundamental dichotomy in that book was the relationship of time and eternity, heavenly and earthly. As in The Lighthouse, the author continues to write in a very refined expression dominated this time, not so much by philosophy, but by distinct vividness, transparent metaphysics in which the relationship between heaven and earth is the axis around which she creates cycles that are repeated and read in one breath. From the very titles of these poems, it is obvious that the author’s inspiration is the dawn, the daybreak, the daylight. It is no coincidence that vineyards and grapes are mentioned, as they are symbolically depicted as a place that connects heaven and earth. Thus in the poem “Vineyards” we find personification – grapes sing a “song / of heaven and earth / and the sea between them” or vineyards grow “between heaven and earth”. In the same poem it is mentioned the sea that is “between”, and later it was emphasized that in heaven “reign / only the blue of heaven / and the blue of the sea”. It is this image of vineyards that “ascend from the earth to heaven” that evokes the symbol of verticality again, just as the lighthouse in the previous book did. This state of affairs is outlined philosophically “between being and not being”. In the poem Dawn we find the opposition of dawn and rest, the beginning and end of the day. Premur impressively describes a series of images, synesthetic experience that awakening of nature, flowering, stirring winds, written in a frenetic rhythm that evokes a magical moment of beginning, as if it were cosmogony. The poet follows the movements in spring, autumn: “stir the gentle ripples / the blue of the sea from the depths / then everything is decorated / with a richly intertwined necklace / of peony of heaven that is blossoming”. However, at the same time, the dawn is also a time of rest for the crickets who “wakened through the dark night”. In these hymnically written verses, the author masterfully depicts the moment when everything wakes up and intertwines, the moon and the trees, the sea and the seagull, before the city itself is woken up. The light overcomes the darkness, the “new day” has tightened and embraced everything, and so on until the new dawn: “for once the day comes to all / at dawn / at daybreak / at daylight / in the splendor of a new day”. In the same poem, which at first seems to be unrelated to any particular place, the Basilica of St. Euphrasius is mentioned, as well as the city. It is located in the town of Poreč, in Istria, therefore, the parts of this sacral building are poetized. This is especially true of early Christian mosaics, and the depiction of Christ. The poet here, along with the epithets of sacredness, divine light, silence, creates a special atmosphere of sublimity, solemnity. In that poem we find another motif that will be poetized even more later, and that is the wedding. Namely, the “great banquet of heaven and earth” takes place at dawn, then they will be “crowned” with a magnificent ring at the banquet. It is especially interesting that the author uses a hyperbolic term here to describe temporality (“all the clocks of this world / that count down / the duration of our lives”). The zenith of the sun and the serenity of the day, the tides, the birth and the death are connected. It is the latter that is the foundation, the only law we all have to obey, the law of change of seasons that goes “around and around”. At dawn, a being is born, so metaphorically it is marked as the beginning of human life. The poem Daybreak is pure epiphany, a description of the creation of the world in one day, a magnificent metonymy. And in that hymn ecstasy, flowers, the sea, all beings are included: “from the tiny ant / to the lion / king of all animals / and the swift otter / who builds logs and lakes / in a budding plantation / twigs of wood and mud / and any word is not sufficient / to describe the whole world / in just one breath / at daybreak.” In describing this creation, the author reintroduces synesthesia, combining images, sounds (birdsong) and scents, colors (flowers), we find the opposition of darkness (“dark the depths of the sea”) and light (“the sun breaks the shackles of darkness”). As I already wrote in the preface to The Lighthouse, Ksenija Premur is an author who also writes strong love poetry in which the longing for a loved one and regret for the lost love is poeticized. In the new book we find poems that speak of the memory of the time of love, the poet records the melancholic moments when “another enchantment / disappears in the past”. The lover is metaphorically presented as “the sailor of my heart”, hyperbolic images are re-introduced (explosion of the sun, “as if you are circling all the oceans”), we find a common motif in the poet’s poetry, and it is a labyrinth, specifically that of Greek mythology: “because it dawned / and with great steps / the minotaur is walking / waiting for me somewhere / in our labyrinth / in which it blossomed / the dawn of a new day”. It is interesting that there is a refrain in the poem that is repeated many times: “if you did not exist / you should be invented”. It describes the distance of the lyrical heroine who post-festum describes the situation after the end of love, and the irony of unreliability and disappointment: “it invites you to a new journey, / how long are your journeys”. In the poem Daylight “the eternal love of heaven and earth” is sung, and it is interesting that the inspiration for the author is in the biblical style, especially the ancient Song of Songs. The cycle of merging and separating lovers in a personified image, marriage and separation, the end of one and the beginning of another daybreak is poetized. Again, as in The Lighthouse, she alludes to Japan as the land of the rising sun, and mentions the suffering of Hiroshima, a difficult historical heritage. Through the picture of progress in which man “diligently builds a new world”, that land is rebuilt into a “land of magical fragrances”. Good overcomes evil, “a new song / a new dawn rises”. Regardless of this eternal change, not even one day is the same and that is exactly what Premur wants to highlight. By doing so, she wants to indicate the Nietzschean strength of a man who changes the world with his creation, as a diligent worker. The poem Moires reminds us that the poet draws inspiration from Greek mythology. They appear as a theme because in Vineyards at Dawn the theme is life and death, time and eternity, the weaving of the lives of the three goddesses of destiny. The question remains whether earthly beings were created to die and turn to dust or live forever. But there is no sole knowledge: “who would know that / in Moire’s weave / of life and death”. The last poem in the book The Wedding of the Earth and the Sky at Daybreak is also the finale. Premur uses terminology related to drama as a literary genre. Choir, tragedy, overture, chorus are mentioned, all in order to sing through the dramatic structure of the wedding of sky and earth, which is married by God himself, and there are also pagan deities. With the process of gradation, the author describes all the sublimity of the atmosphere of the ceremony, the awakening of nature, revived, at dawn. The wedding is a symbol of creation, but also a celebration of man as the creator, because he also carries a divine spark, and his works testify to man’s strength and power of creation, whose symbol is “Boticelli’s Madonna / eternally young and eternally beautiful”. In the end, Ksenija Premur sang a genuine hymn to man in this non-time, who in his being connects the earthly and heavenly dimensions. This is why with the book Vineyards at Dawn she continues her poetic series and does not give up on humanistic ideals and aesthetic Beauty.

Darija Žilić