Tsum | Review: Julie Beirens – Hides

beauty flaws

On the first reading of Hide, the first collection of Julie Berens, the reader doesn’t have much to hold on to. For example, there is no table of contents and most poems have no title. Leather is clearly an all-encompassing topic, and after a more nuanced reading, it’s about I’ve always wanted to relate to its environment. The first series, “The Harvest,” lets one’s self grow from a toddler to a kid about to finish high school. In the second series “Skins”, the events of the series revolve around the relationship with a loved one, and in the last “glamorous” series, decay begins.

Although the collection as a whole is filled with beautiful images and expressive of love, there are still some criticisms that need to be made on a detailed level. Sometimes the picture is a little skewed, sometimes the poems are too blurry, there is unnecessary information, and the reference word is not quite right. The powerful poem is:

Habimus Papam II

In the fifth year we get to know the Pope
So I ask the teacher what to do for it
You must have studied

I watch at night
Online vacancies
I upload my CV

to the end
Being a woman is too much
to be good

The “before that” argument works powerfully, because first the reader can think of times before the pope, but then it comes down to knowledge about the popes. The last two lines are especially noteworthy. The association may be that to get a job it is better not to be a woman. He may also read that a woman is evil. These and many interpretation options make the poem exciting. This is also the following untitled poem:

I don’t know if we should get married
to have children
Because all I see in you
I was isolated from myself

A child who falls rises again
And hits the ground again
The mother who cries that walking is already successful
but not yet

A dream is an act of hunger
I watch things and only see
For the child to fall and get up again
Mother cooing again

I see the chances are diminishing
To put the verb to the word
Just climb one step
But nothing takes so much courage

Much about this poem is obscure. The word “stolen” makes the reader think of the word “stolen”. I had a thing, now I don’t have it, and you own it. This makes me doubt whether he should marry you. Perhaps the second passage can be read as an explanation of what was stolen: the upcoming motherhood. In such a reading, you and I are a woman, I will become a mother first, but you become pregnant first. The phrase “to dream is an act of hunger” sounds like an aphorism, and it doesn’t seem to be meant to be taken literally. Is “hunger” a desire or a deficiency? Does the ego dream of motherhood precisely because it is not a mother, and especially when it sees a mother with her child? That the word “again” is literally there when the mother is petted again is a gentle wink, and that the poet knows she is repeating herself. Diminishing opportunities may also be an expression of a woman’s aging and therefore less likely to become a mother. Getting pregnant doesn’t have to be difficult (just climbing one step), but it does require a lot of courage. The last sentences are topical and applicable to many situations.

Some cosmetic defects then:

Her nose is so sharp
We are there on Sunday
cut the cake

Its limbs are slender
And narrow like a harvest spider
But then divided by two

Besides the fact that this poem seems a bit special, the reader might feel underestimated the last line, because yes, a spider probably has eight limbs and four humans. No need to say that. Ostend’s poem is divided into two poems by four. In the second fourth he says:

When the fight was not a scalpel yet
That cut words to pieces

Here the picture of cutting with a scalpel is a little strange, because the scalpel cuts but does not cut. There are also some light poems in the collection such as:

Death is completely final
I wish there was a lighter version
was available

You can taste the sugar
without giving it a chance
to make you fat

Proof of death is an interesting concept. Making fat may not be final, hence the image is beautiful, but it is not quite right. However, the main problem is that the reference word “is” cannot refer to drunkenness, so that the reader is taken out of the pleasant reading experience. Sometimes the poem is a little easy, albeit sweet, like:

I’m looking for a language from it
I can make plaster
I can hold on to you
Anywhere it hurts

On this last line, the reader might be thinking: Yes, where else would you stick this sticker? To end the review on a positive note, because except for minor flaws, the collection is fun to read, the closing poem (I wonder about the mental shutters that open the words ‘criminal’ and ‘criminal’ in readers):

yes confess
me too
with shame
on my cheek

Every day I cherish it
That criminal desire
to be criminally closed
to be with you

Eric Jean Hamill

Julie Berens – Hide. Belkmans, Calmthot, Belgium. 80 pages. 20.00 euros.


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