A review of Letters to a Dead Man by Rosemary Nissen-Wade

Reviewed by Beatriz Copello

Letters to a Dead Man
by Rosemary Nissen-Wade
Softcover, 40 pages, ISBN: 978-0-6458078-2-0

Something very unusual happened. I received for review two small books about love in the same week. This allowed me to compare and make notes in my head. Although love poetry can be cloying, both of the books I read contained love poems that are interesting, well written and enriched with literary devices.

Letters to a Dead Man are not letters but prose and poetry about a forbidden love or if not forbidden unethical. This intense love between a man and a woman is set in Pentridge Prison. Reading the poems it is difficult to decide who was the prisoner and who was the free person. I had my suspicions which were confirmed later.

The book is divided in three sections titled “Since”, “After” and “Before”, in these three sections we encounter many personal memories as well as emotions about love and the loss of love. “Since” mainly contains narrative pieces, all well written and set the scene for what is next to come. The following is an excerpt from “Behind the Wall”:

The wall has gone.  It is all past history.  But still in my mind it rises up.  Tell my story? Your story?  Our story?  It is enough that we lived it.  It’s no-one else’s business. 

Except that we wrote it in poems, and sometimes I still do…obliquely.  We wrote it in letters too, but they were all burned a long time ago.

In the second section “After” we read about the love for the young man who died at only 24 years of age.  The poems present a smooth and orderly surface with a voice measured and deliberate. There is not sentimentality but authentic emotions that touch the reader. The pain of losing her lover is evident and very poetically expressed.  It is difficult to be a reviewer and a psychologist because I always try to analyse intentions, in this case I ask myself: is the author trying to understand the breaking of boundaries of the love affair or trying to keep his memory alive? So, I forced myself to leave off my psychologist hat and continue as a reviewer.  The following excerpt from a poem titled “Bon Voyage” (Good night, sweet Prince’) really touched me:

Nothing left to do.
A candle white as the moon
lit for your good journey.
A prayer: peace for you
lessons learnt in light
and your safe returning.
By then I’ll be away.
Nowhere to meet.
Echoes of laughter stay
and tenderness.
Soft hand, warm neck,
millions of thought kisses.
Poems, imagined roses.

If you want to find out who was the ‘prisoner’ and who was the ‘free person’ you can purchase Letters to a Dead Man from the author’s website www.nissen-wade.com. This small book is different in many ways, it will keep your interest and you will enter into the recollections of an impossible love.

About the reviewer: Dr Beatriz Copello is an award-winning poet, she writes poetry, fiction, reviews and plays. The author’s books are: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations At the Edge of a Dream, Under the Gums Long Shade, Forbidden Steps Under the Wisteria, A Call to the Stars translated and published in China and Taiwan, Witches Women and Words, No Salami Fairy Bread, Rambles, Renacer en Azul and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish).  Copello’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications. The author has participated in international conferences, has taught Creative Writing at W.S.U. and other scholarly institutions, she has read her poetry at Writers Festivals and other poetry events in Australia and overseas. Copello is mentioned amongst the forty “most notable people” graduated from the University of Technology.