The Layers Between unfolds its philosophical conceits with a kind of artfully organic movement; flowing as it does between carefully wrought, playful monologues and compact, pithy poems. This collection is beautifully put together, the sequence of voices progressing with the kind of crystalline logic a reader might expect from natural, mythic and conceptual archetypes given voice and reflecting on what they perceive of the world. Conversely to expectation, it is the anthropomorphic monologues, designed to explore theories of being and believing, that demonstrate compassion and humanity; while the more intimate glimpses of the everyday shown in the poetry sections highlight a more clinical beauty and clarity of vision. The two sections work together admirably as a pathway for the reader’s own ideas and formulations; an invitation to step into the world, and inhabit it with open eyes and minds.
author of miss moon’s class
Celia Claase’s debut collection The Layers Between has the sense of a journey stretching back to the meditations of the pre-Socratic philosophers then suddenly landing plumb in the midst of 20th century surrealism. It takes one back to a moment even before the Big Bang to a present where the future is ultimately unknowable yet at the same time as close to us as our own inner layers of skin. Her work is not esoteric or mystical though it certainly dwells in the realms of the metaphysical. However, the everyday ‘ordinary’ world of playgrounds, food, aprons and sex is never altogether absent. If
the first part of the book contains philosophical narratives dealing with concepts such as space, time, motion and the elements, the second part consists of poems dealing with issues of the transient material world. As Claase perceptively states in one of the narratives: ‘You experience me as metaphysical although I have the same characteristics as physical matter’.
Claase recognises that the aspects of the physical world are ‘nothing but combinations of the various energies moving at different frequencies, which ultimately determine their shapes and densities’. It is this understanding that allows us to slide easily into a Daliesque universe where ‘We were in St Petersburg, which was not St. Petersburg. We were assembling a wall but called it a table.’
In the poems we know that ‘Awareness has eyes’. It is a world of Fukushima, dolphin hunts, poached rhinos and slit wrists. Whether in Thailand or in South Africa, there are clouds, hills, fires, circulating blood and edited dreams. We are the species that makes love and rapes. We free murderers and ‘ignore the famine-grunts’ from our ‘abundant world’. But while the zones of comfort may be diminishing, Claase recognizes the interrelationship of the physical and metaphysical, the seen and the unseen. She perceives ‘the fear of isolation/The desperation for reattachment’ and is able to ‘hear a group of children sing and for a moment experience/ the whole being pulled back together’. She has the ability to cut through the illusions of material gain, security and power: she may not have bought any of the world’s rivers, but they all belong to her. As she wakes up in a dream ‘I open my mouth and the jungles rain in’. The Layers Between is the recognition of ‘as above, so below’, and the joyous, yet calm, realisation that samsara is nirvana and nirvana is samsara.
(Johannesburg. July 2015)
editor, New Coin Literary Magazine -Rhodes University, South Africa
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Word Press Blog: The Layers Between