“Nights in the Snow Garden” Lotté Jean (The Elliotts Creative) – book review

Lotte Jean Nights in the Snow Garden book cover

There is a gothic sensibility that runs throughout Lotté Jean’s “Nights in the Snow Garden”. The collection has a narrator suffering an undefined loss, likely to be a broken heart, and turns to nature and the soothing power of nurturing a garden to heal. “Welcome to the Garden” sees the narrator follow a trail of snow sprinkles,

“as the area bloomed
even in the dead of winter.
i would come back one day
to meet the garden again
and learn to grow like these flowers
in the harshest of climates
that still stood so strong and beautiful.”

The narrator sees that something as apparently fragile as flowers can still be strong, that after a cold blast of snow, they return. The garden becomes a solace and a source of focus. But first there’s the winter to get over, “A Step in Snow” (complete poem),

“let us go on a trek
and learn to love our wounds
as if they were friends”

The poem has a haiku-like structure, but lacks the kigo which is included in the title. It contains the idea that injuries (to our egos and feelings) can be a source of growth if we allow ourselves to see a long term plan and give ourselves time to recover. There’s a sound echo in “wounds” and “friends” which underlines the sense.

“Rivers of Red Roses” hints at what triggered the need for healing,

“you tried to nurture my flowers
with nothing but ill intent.
their stems died beneath you”

Plants don’t grow if not placed in the right soil with the right amount of watering and food. If a stem appears dead, it can’t support the leaves and flowers. However, the roots may still be able to support regrowth if the conditions improve. It ends,

“a delicate bud
must now rebuild
on a broken root.”

There’s some hope, the roots are still capable of sustaining a life, even if that may not be in the current growing season.

Roses re-appear towards the end, in “Notes Written in the Blood of Roses”,

“if you don’t dare
to meet and love
the many flowers
of the world
then you dare not
to become a garden”

The message is to get out and meet new people, expose yourself to new ideas in order to stretch and grow. Sending your branches in predictable patterns over a supportive trellis may look pretty but also traps you into making the same mistakes, only doing what feels safe. In that sense the collection comes full circle back to the earlier idea of wounds as friends. The lessons learnt are worth the pain and vulnerability because they make you stronger as a person and help you become.

“Nights in the Snow Garden” is a slender volume that looks at gardens as a metaphor for human development and growth. It acknowledges that mistakes can become lessons, without being overly optimistic and sunny about it. There’s no false hope or relentless positivity. It takes a lot of work to build and maintain a garden, but the rewards are worth striving for. It’s not a new idea and it backs away from becoming a self-help manual, sticking instead to exploring and sustaining its garden/flower imagery.

“Nights in the Snow Garden” is available from The Elliotts Creative.

Emma Lee’s The Significance of a Dress is available from Arachne Press. The link also has a trailer featuring the title poems and samples of some of the poems from the collection. It is also available as an eBook.

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