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Lala Heine-Koehn

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Lala Heine-Koehn

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my name is miguel, i am from cuba. i met lala here, in holguin, years ago and we instantly clicked in and became friends. i did translation work for her, mainly of her poetry books, which unfortunately i lost and never knew if she kept any of it. i am sorry to have confirmation of her demise... lala motivated me to write essays on her poems. she read them and was happy. i am attaching a compilation here for people to know her better. i fully agree with john bartons words about her passion and sense of friendship and honesty. my review of her works reflects that too. may it be my humble tribute to her with my deepest condolences to her family. during the years she was coming down to holguin, lala brought me most of her books, dedicated to me and signed with her unforgettable handwriting. every now and then i go back to them to read and enjoy and find a place for love and beauty. my essay:
M.Sc. Miguel Ángel Olivé Iglesias. Associate Professor.
Holguín University, Cuba

There is magnificence in Lala Heine-Koehns offspring called poems, and in the grandeur of the mind that conceived them. Her poetry is a time-space ride fuelled by harmonically blended universal and personal themes: Nature, life, love, sex open, passionate, beautiful childhood and home memories, nostalgia, anger, joy, pain, escape, anguish, protest, intimacy, sadness, irony, optimism, mystique, fantasymost of them forged in dialogues that bring us closer to the characters and to her.
Lala Heine-Koehn transpires an exuberant culture that blooms in a variety of sources carved masterfully in each and every word. That she knows the world and the human soul is evident as you actually live from page to page of her books.
We met once for a few days. They sufficed to enlighten me. I have done translation favours for her and she feels I have given her so much help. I have been smart enough to let her believe that, but in reality it is I the one touched by her halo. My journey into her works, heart-felt and grateful, is a way to pay homage to her legacy.
The Journey into Some of Lala Heine-Koehns Books
My initiation journey began with Sand Poems, a book that traps you forever. My favourite poems are: Refuge, You are Like a Bird, The Cuckoo, The Holy Grail (Ah, what a piece!), The Sky Lark (You feel afraid to jostle the visions, to tread on the scene she depicts!). Wondrously, I shall make brief comments on others, so you can imagine how enticing all of them are. My Home is my Castle, a poem of underlying love and clear-cut message where solidarity and complicity for love go together. Simple words, great ending, with colloquialisms that sound ok even to the Puritan of Puritans; The Shadow, a compact killer that cuts like a knife; Where the Hearth is, an idyllic reference that is soft and soothes you, stirring up sweet peaceful images it made me cry; Through my Window, the musician and the painter in the poet: I hear the ocean roam and whistle and whine and turn choppy, but I also swim in the collage of colours that she subtly plays with.
Then came Forest Full of Rain. My favourite ones: It was that Kind of a Spring, On my Bedside Table, Mother (The best for me. Anyone who reads this letter-poem changes for ever), The Waiting, The Verdict, The Language of Flowers, You Were Gone Before You Came, You and I are Homeless with a Roof Above our Heads, The Poems You Write for Me, Auctioning off Eyes. Again, comments on some of them: And Beyond Us Were the Hills and The Caragana Roots are superb novel-like pieces that the poet skilfully edits for the reader.
You can't put them down! The Eagle Nest Cliff, an epic in reverse: the character stays and suffers absence, a long waiting propped up by resolution and hope. The Bowl that Molds the Island, a superbly conceived sustained metaphor, one of a kind; The other Woman's House, that sense of not belonging, of sadness, yet with a blossoming first click-in at the end, with a place that the poet will also turn into her home; Wigilia, Gather Around Me, the person who tries to finally fit in, finds things to keep busy in a house that is not her own yet she starts to pass on to the place her habits, her own life. Another Year, Another Time, these poems are a constant reference to and sheltering in Nature searching for life and living. Worth-awarding citation to You and I are Homeless with a Roof Above our Heads. The theme of absence reverberates in this poem, but the sense of warmth and refuge leitmotifs in Lala's works give a welcoming touch to it: she uses warm, hearth, embers, fire, roof, black coals, flame leaps, rekindled by a kind word, hands warm, flares up, blazing, still glowing coals, warm ashes, all of which are suggestive of safety, protection from the cold in the manifold connotations of the word.
The Spell of the Chaste Tree is an elegant and heart-felt homage paid by the poet to a country and people who captured her heart. Lala is ensnared in the magic that is Greece, its culture and folklore, an experience and insight that enlightened her through years of travelling and interest in the human being. Her great themes show along the reading. My favourite poems: Lepidoptera, In the Mirrors of Your Eyes, Kallikanzaros and the Spell of the Chaste Tree. Other poems that should go unmentioned: In Ipiros, Will You See Me?, How Much does Stardust Weigh?, Is this not the Place where my Cradle Stood?, Betaubung, Gouvia Beach, The Blue Candle, Pelekas, Go to the Light. They carry the ever-fresh fragrance that accompanies the poet, the lyrical touch that is enhanced by the charms of a nation that trapped her and made her recall her Poland.
The Certain Days of Abstinence re-ignites in me the intimate feelings I had with Sand Poems. The poet says she is changing colours; I would say she is rather taking on the colours of the rainbow. Once more, she is caught in the lure of millenary traditions and customs, to produce more of her finest poems. My favourite ones Wow!: The Twenty-One Blue Horses, When the Moon is Full, The Pearl she Holds, The Reality of You, She whom I will Never Touch, How to Measure the Distance, Listen to this Morning, But Then there are Other Shadows, The Enchanted Sleep, The Betrayal, Somewhere Someone Far Away. Others: Of what I cannot Speak, The Poetics of Flowers, The U No Hana Branch, As Always, The Sentry, Ineluctable, The Unbreathed Love, The Lotus Sutra, This was to be a Love Poem. This book is an orchard that Lala nurtures with her own hands, body and heart. This is a book of gardens, flowers, scents that are set up for the all-time theme, romance.
First Stopover in the Journey: Touching Marble
The distinctive lustre of statuary marble is caused by light penetrating a short distance into the stone and then being reflected from the surfaces of inner crystals (1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation). This quotation defines Lala Heine-Koehn for me. The light must penetrate to be reflected showing the inner beauty that she has. Should we approach her with, or give her, darkness, none of that beauty will be revealed. That is her lustre. May it last forever.
That the author chose marble as central to her poem is a gift for literary analysis as well. Marble takes high polish and is used for statuary; its lustre is distinctive and famous and stirs the wish to touch it. But marble also crumbles in moist and rain, yet it is durable in a dry atmosphere and when protected from rain. These ideas render her sun-seeking crusade with a blood-drenched marble as a far-reaching endeavour: would the marble crumble, then, before the sun rises in their eyes? What yesterday or today rain would the poet need to find shelter from? These are just two out of the endless questions that might haunt a keen reader. Lala's life is strongly linked to Greece, where top-quality marble was aplenty and was used by sculptors in the classic times.
The poem reveals the authors throbbing, young and romantic heart, who knows how to write touching poetry. There is no escaping from the expressive power of word repetition and line structure as stylistic devices or from the delicate play on the mesmerizing lure of time travel: the magic of yesterday and the dictations of today fuse and flow and trap the reader over and over.
There is also enigma in the lines, and intimate desires that slice the poet open and make her bleed these memories of tender moments. Both tender and moments are well-chosen, suggestive words, deserving and awaiting a fertile mind, a twin soul to consume in the lingering promise to touch marble. If you can see through the translucent blood-stained marble the poet carves here, then you will have looked inside her and trembled with emotion at such workshop of tumultuous thoughts, at such labyrinth of feelings and tantalizing hints, all bottled up inside the single special human being that is Lala.
Is the heart really that foolish in the promise of a sun for eyes that soar beyond or perhaps fall short of the limits that a horizon might impose to imagination and eagerness? That is for the poet alone to say. As for me, she once more fills my empty spaces with her poetry, and splendidly saves me from the banalities and pains of life and the ethereal, futile and dictating fleetness of today and the pulverizing printed and faded certainty of yesterday for I, too, want to touch the majesty of the marble that she has immortalized now in this piece that won't crumble. Remember Shakespeare, When in eternal lines to Time thou growest....
Second Stopover: Two Great Poems, One Major Inspiration
Once I ended an email to Lala with Your Cuban son. She admonished me. She did it gently, but firmly; tenderly, but irrevocably. I thank her twice. Firstly, she is right: she is not my mother (whom I dearly loved all my life). She is my friend, a category• that is valuable, worthy and sacred too and I am highly proud to have her as a friend. Secondly, she unveiled for me the depth of two poems she wrote and I connected, profoundly touched by her words.
I had approached Lala's poetry before, with comments on some of her books or highlights of single poems. Today I dare refer to two pieces five years away from each other approximately whose essence she unlocked for me in her admonishing. Both were conceived in the culture broth that is love for a figure that stands eternal and universal: the mother.
The first is To my Mother, a 1977 production from the book Portraits. It is a beautifully sad piece, masterfully blending the innocent claim of a child (Lala herself) with the irreversibly crushing pang of her mother's demise. The last line, the child's cry, is overwhelming, dolefully closing a poem that solemnly moulds metaphors, similes, onomatopoeias; and in which sound-taste-colour mixtures turn into an assortment of indelible memories for the child.
The poet's reminiscences are stimulated by scents, noises, mother-related places (like the kitchen), shapes, colours, contrasting hues: white vs. ivory; white and ivory vs. black (no wonder her mother taught her to see with her eyes open!). The force of the girl's painful innocence is brilliantly accentuated by her hopeless supplication in the end. The reader knows her mother is definitely gone, and it hurts more. It reveals a cruel ballast of grief that weighs ominously on the bereaved child and on any sensitive reader as well.
This is Lala in a first yet mature, tender, tearing and promising literary travail and also high display of style that enthrals the reader. Despite the affliction, as a thankful reader I wonder at and hopefully cling to the certitude that even when her mother is no longer there, sweet, vivid, palpable images of her linger with Lala, for her to cherish and honour them. Always.
The second poem is Mother, a 1982 tour-de-force from the book Forest Full of Rain. Lala returns to her mother to lose her again! in a sublime letter-poem that made me cry, and stayed with me years after I read it for the first time and trekked down the desperate and aching lines.
Images and allusions from To my Mother recur in this poem: the white turban, the cameo brooch, the black hair, sounds, nostalgic visions of yore, references to paintings and colours again. Along with them, the recalcitrant anguish for the loss of her mother, slapped on Lala's face by the old woman's reply in the end; and already foreboded in the frostbiting words, you disappeared inside. Even ink is present in both poems, an ink that stains fingers in the former, an ink that stains a handkerchief in the latter. But, it might also stain an eluding memory, a memento which Lala so sweetly and at the same time so passionately cuddles to and won't allow to disappear
Yes, in admonishing me my friend Lala offered the key to shed a tear with and dwell personally involved in the magnificence of these two poems, encouraged by the greatest of all earthly loves. She taught me to love and honour my mother more. Thank you, Lala Heine-Koehn.
This is a humble approach, and tribute, to Lala Heine-Koehns poetic work. Also, it is a very personal analysis after reading and translating many of her poems. Lala read these lines and thanked me. She said that in my reviews I brought to the surface thoughts and notions she agreed with and deeply valued.
I hope the voices Lala hears are never silenced, and walk with her along the path she plants with love and magic. They won't fly from her. I have the strong certainty they live inside her, to her beating left.
I wish I could be with you all next weekend. So very glad that Mom and I visited a couple of years ago. Our prayers are with you. Gary and Monica
Dear Andrea, Richard, Greg, Tim, and Andrew, It is with great sadness that I learned of Lala's passing, now almost a month ago, through our mutual friend, Blaine. Lala and I had been out of touch for many years, but that sad fact can in no way cast a shadow across the profound effect knowing her has had on my life. I met her when I was a very naive young man in Robin Skelton's poetry third-year workshop at the University of Victoria in 1978. She befriended me at a time when I needed the kind of friendship she is so generously, graciously, and unquestionably offered. I have many memories of working on our poems together at her dining room table or mine, of going to poetry readings, of commiserating together when our poems were rejected by magazines, and of celebrating the times when they were published. Lala shook up the world with her passionate commitment to lived experience. I admired how her fluency in English, German, and Polish, and her grasp of French, Russian and Greek enriched her poems, as did her skills with water colour, pencil, and ink. What visually arresting, complex poems she wrote. She brought a deep European perspective to her many talents that I had only previously experienced in books. I remember one time asking her how she could manage to wear earrings made from several camel-shoe nails each--didn't the weight of them hurt? Her reply was characteristic: "Anything for beauty." The stories she told of her childhood in the Tatra Mountains, of what she witnessed during the war in Europe, of Munich in the difficult years after, and of the life she and your father built for you, as their children, after they came to Canada--they all have left their mark on me. I'd be a different person today if we'd not met. The house on Plasket Place will always occupy my heart, my memories of it and of the times I spent there are too numerous to count. Everywhere I turn, as I mentally wander through, I encounter her many treasures and paintings. From the winter garden off the dining room to her study off her bedroom, I find myself meeting Lala's kind, intelligent, and intense gaze. That gaze demanded a lot of me--of everyone Lala made a friend. She expected honesty and retuned it in kind. It wasn't always easy, but I learned from her. I am grateful. She was a like a parent sometimes--but mostly importantly she was a loyal friend. A friend made in my youth whom I will never forget. Again, my condolences to you all. I will be with you in spirit on January 20. Best wishes, John
To the family: I am sharing in your loss and hoping you feel the sympathy of those around you. Hearing stories over many decades and having met your beloved Daj and read her work inspired me in many ways. Her presence as a life-force on earth will truly be missed.
Dear Andrea and family,
We are so sorry to read about the passing of Lala. Alice, Lala's cousin (and my mother) has been talking about Lala's father recently, retelling the story of his passing at the end of WWII. Why?, we wondered. We looked online and were sadened to read about Lala's passing. Somehow, Alice must have felt her.

Ernst (89 yrs), my father, wishes Lala "happy voyage".
Alice is still too shocked.
Dad was remembering a visit from Lala when they went to a Winnipeg restaurant. "She wouldn't go to a restaurant that didn't provide real serviettes".
We remember Lala for her extravagant, exuberant dress and artistry. And poetry.
"They lived with my family when they came from Poland." Alice recalled. "I felt safe with her and I enjoyed her company. We shared a love of music and art."

For me, as a child & young adult, Lala was completely different. I remember thinking, "Wow, this is possible!." She was completely unique, an inspiration to those of us who could but be ourselves. She was quite a woman. We are all better for knowing her.
Much love to you all,
Alice, Ernst & Heidi
[email protected]
Sorry for your loss tim
Parents are so very special
May your mom be at peace
I am so sorry for the loss of your loved one. Please find peace and comfort in Psalms 119:76.
Dear Andrea: My thoughts and prayers are extended to you and your family at this time. Think of all the happy memories you shared together, remember all that love you.
To the Koehn Family. We were so sorry to hear of the passing of your mother. Our deepest sympathy for you all.
Trevor and Deb Wheler
Dear Andrea, Rick and Greg,
My thoughts are with you during this very difficult emotional time and my heart goes out to you. As former neighbours many years ago on Moxon Crescent, I remember your mother as a vibrant, energetic person whose life was full of love and kindness. Cherish all the wonderful memories you have of your time together.
With deepest sympathy,
Cornelia Jones (Hirte)
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