Paradise by Elise
Masque Publishing, 2009
To purchase, visit the Masque Publishing website.
British author Elise’s newest volume of poetry, entitled Paradise, is a modern imagining of Romanticism’s emphasis on love, nature, and the spiritual world. To complement her writing, the book is illustrated with a number of pre-Raphaelite paintings. Overall, Paradise is a strong collection by an accomplished poet. While Elise occasionally slips into clichéd sentiments or overwrought emotions, ultimately her work demonstrates an ability to blend an appreciation for the classics with modern sensibilities.
Paradise starts out strong, opening with a poem by the same title. The poem highlights Elise’s strengths as a writer. For example, take these lines from the middle of “Paradise”:
For dreams are meant to be
From their weary beds. (8-11)
Elise has a real gift for personification; I think these lines show her abilities to imbue both objects and abstract concepts with a sense of humanity. These lines work so well because they associated the personified dream state with actual sleep. The correlation of dreams with the actual act of sleeping makes their treatment fascinating, especially when read as a call to make one’s dreams reality.
Another of Elise’s strengths is her ability to create beautiful images with only a few words. What some poets might take an entire poem to conjure up, she can do in a strophe. Take these lines from “Forgotten Centuries”:
Words are lost
in the grieving sigh
of angels. (1-3)
This abstract imagery, which provides a compelling introduction to the poem, is characteristic of Elise’s work throughout this volume. Her openings are consistently impeccable, immediately engaging with readers and luring them into each piece.
Although an overall excellent collection, there are a few weaker moments in this chapbook. The phrase “sweet surrender” is used in two poems, and unfortunately, she hasn’t coined the phrase – I can think of a number of poems and popular songs in which it already appears. Lines such as “Face as cold as ice,” and “Blood-red mouth” also lack originality and innovation. Finally, while I found her choice of illustrations to be lovely, I also felt that she could have selected a few more contemporary pieces to reflect the modern nature of her work. But while the collection is not completely perfect, these moments of criticism are few; Elise has shown herself to be an accomplished and prolific poet.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Paradise and experiencing Elise’s reinterpretation of Romantic ideas. While there are a few moments where the writing could be a bit more innovative, in general she has demonstrated her ability to understand and re-imagine older artistic traditions and provide her own perspective on the ideas that older poets put forth. Elise has been a writer for over 20 years, and I look forward to reading her future work and seeing her craft further develop.