Verb, 2018. 96 pp.
ISBN 9789949723812

Mehis Heinsaar’s baroquely fantastical world of writing no longer needs a greater introduction for Estonian readers. The mystical beings and ancient fairy-tale landscapes of his earlier works also find a place in his second poetry collection, The Gardener of Tension Fields. Yet, compared to the author’s earlier writing, it’s immediately clear that this atmosphere is particularly sleepy and overgrown. As if in a hangover from a phase of exceptional vibrancy or within a state of gradual degeneration. It is not a deep, blissful peace, but rather an incapacitating numbness. This world is populated by choked ponds, faded walls, tepid tea, moss-covered fences, and stale coffee.

Still, Heinsaar doesn’t appear to be practicing post-apocalyptic philosophy in his poems: man’s own deeper existence has been covered in the bramble of oblivion instead. The way from this forgotten state to the soul’s primeval homeland is a “barely perceptible path” to “where there is / no way back” (p. 22). Flanking this journey are bizarre beings who constantly spy upon the journeyer: “I AM A DWARF / on this narrow and overgrown path / in your own spiritual land / a path you don’t dare / to tread” (p. 44); “An ancient woman / sits upon a branch / watching you / with a frozen gaze / as you pass / beneath” (p. 36).
Heinsaar is a masterful storyteller, which is also reflected in his poetry. Captivating and with wonderful conclusions, the poems can be enjoyed at face value and do not require colossal poetic interpretation to bear their charm.  It does, however, seem that the fairy-tale layer is no longer so all-encompassing. Magic blends with the poet’s frank confessions and unconcealed inner searching. Heinsaar’s own fragility and confessionary tone are increasingly discernible, especially in his mammoth poem “A Defense of Failure” (pp 50–53) and in the questions he sets forth in “THE SECRET is near” (p. 60). Readers find themselves in a delicate position: a gripping fairy tale and a subtle confession scroll by simultaneously. Additionally, Heinsaar writes something in The Gardener of Tension Fields that might be taken as his creative credo: “You are a mystery to yourself, / you are something in-between: / not bird, nor beast, nor person. / Nearly a thousand possibilities / crystallize in your jointish eyes; / nearly a hundred strange and dangerous paths / in the shadow or light of which you may resume / your clawish life’s path.” (p. 73) These deviations onto a dimension outside of fantasy underpin his fairy-tale world by showing the importance of adventuring in non-rational spheres in order to resolve one’s own mysteries – every person’s most critical of tasks.

Maarja Helena Meriste is a literary critic, editor, and is pursuing a master’s in literature at the University of Tartu. In 2017, Meriste received the youth literary magazine Värske Rõhk’s annual award for literary review.