Philomena van Rijswijk, 'Bread of the Lost'

Philomena van Rijswijk: 'Bread of the Lost'

Philomena van Rijswijk’s poetry is such a sensual treat. As with her fiction, there seems to be no topic off-limits; no intimacy she isn’t willing to explore. The poetry moves across a wide range of themes, but all of the poems are charged with emotive power, mixed imagery and rich textures, so heady at times, that breaks for breath are needed. All of the senses are engaged.

The poetry invites the reader to partake of the Bread of the Lost, suggested by the title: each poem a kind of nutritional offering. The title poem, “Páin Perdú” epitomizes the multiple meanings and textures inherent in all of the poems. Normally Páin Perdú refers to a kind of French toast made of stale (‘lost’) bread that is re-found through frying the bread in egg custard. In van Rijswijk’s poem the bread becomes symbolic of many different things through her extended metaphors, the most prevalennt being love and desire not fully consummated. This bread leaves the speaker choking, dying of hunger despite the bread that is lodged in the throat:

I am dying from a lump of spoiled bread
Turned to lead in my slender throat:
A bland wadge of hopefulness,
Wedged like a lump of loaf
Cast aloft by a careless hand. (55)

From a review by Magdalena Ball in Compulsive Reader, 9th June 2013