This week’s Biblioshelf Musings is of the poetry genre! I was approached by the author Daniel Ståhl to read Requiem (In Memory Of All That Should Have Been), his collection of sonnets at the beginning of this year and since I haven’t really read any poetry recently, I thought this would be a great time to dip my toe back in again. Poetry seems to offer a versatility and flexibility that you don’t always get with fiction so I was pleased to be able to go into Daniel’s collection with a really open mind to see what I found – and reader, I was mind-blown at how stunning Daniel’s writing was and sheer level of detail and effort that must have gone into creating it.
Book: Requiem: In Memory Of All That Should Have Been by Daniel Ståhl
Publication Date: December 2020
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Through its 211 interwoven poems, this double-tiered recursive crown of sonnets takes the reader on an epic journey to the heart of mankind’s would-be nemesis – herself – and back again. Does her destiny await in the unexplored depths of the cosmos, or in a toxic wasteland of her own making? Does she have the will to shape her own future, or is she a slave to her myopic wants and impulses?
Requiem is like nothing else I have ever read. Told through sonnets, the overarching story follows a she-giant through her various thoughts and contemplations as she considers what it really means to craft her own destiny and be alive.
In such brief 14 line segments of writing, Ståhl quickly builds up an atmosphere that I found incredibly intoxicating – at times its apocalyptic, in places it offers futuristic hope. The undercurrent of dystopia running through each sonnet really emphasised the internal predicaments and turmoil of the she-giant’s musings and I found myself almost picturing her standing in some Mount Doom-esque landscape just watching the world fall to bits around her – that imagery was intensely vivid and brought about by such powerful language and expression. At times, I found the whole arc of the character’s journey to be slightly on the abstract side (for my own brain!), but it was a nice feeling just be swept away by Daniel’s writing. You cannot help but be drawn into this she-giant’s story, to experience her feelings and despair and then develop this sense of empathy and desire for her to rescue herself.
“Are we witnessing the beginning of the end, or merely the end of the beginning?”
As we wind our way through each sonnet, the continuous countdown of the clock on the pages between each poem heightens that build up of tension and the sense of heading towards something that we may never come back from. In our modern days where we are only now seeing the devastating impacts our industrial and digital revolutions have on planet earth and the natural world (and having recently read David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet), I couldn’t help but transpose that real world sense of crisis into the narrative that Ståhl was weaving; the sense that on some futuristic level ‘this’ could be the fate of mankind made for a quite heady reading experience.
For me though, the absolute gem of this whole book was the sheer intricacy, detail and conception of the whole thing. With an English Lit degree, I’m no stranger to sonnets – but a crown of sonnets…? This was an entirely new reading experience for me and I was so grateful for Daniel’s concise breakdown and explanation at the start of his work to help me understand how this collection was constructed. Even then, my comprehension of what was actually unfolding between each crown, then each master sonnet, and how they seamlessly moulded and pulled everything preceding together took a little time for me to fully realise its impact, but when the light bulb went off… wow! By the time I got to the very final page, my excitement at the grand unveiling had reached fever pitch and my mind was well and truly blown. The dedicated and meticulous planning that went into crafting these double-tiered recursive crowns and the mechanics at how it all fits together like some grand poetic jigsaw puzzle is like nothing I have ever read before – I don’t really want to give any spoilers away by revealing more because discovering it for yourself is just so mesmerising.
Requiem really is a stunning work of art. You don’t have to be an avid poetry fan to find something here to enjoy. Whether you’re a reader looking for something different and new, you’re intrigued by how to survive a future that could be apocalyptic and dystopian; you appreciate the technical and structural aspects an author employs when crafting of a piece of writing – there is so much to be entranced by and fall in love with between the pages of Requiem.
Why Should I Read This?
For the intriguing, structurally exquisite organisation of this poetic masterpiece.
For a fun-filled fusion of science-fiction, philosophy and poetry.
For a unique reading experience.