Arc Poetry Magazine Review

ARC POETRY MAGAZINE FEATURE REVIEW

 

Harold Rhenisch

 

Love and War and Oranges

Philip Resnick. Footsteps of the Past. Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2015.

Nick Papaxanthos. Love Me Tender. Toronto: Mansfield Press, 2015.

Dimitris Lianinis. Hours of the Stars. Surrey, BC: Libros Libertad, 2015.

Tzoutzi Matzourani. Hear Me Out: Letters to My Ex-Lover. Surrey, BC: Libros Libertad, 2015

 

Classicism is the belief that adherence to past models recreates their successes. It’s why art students draw from the nude, formalists write sonnets, and Germany is structured on Goethe’s Faust. It’s also why Canadian poets write in a series of stances called, variously: self-actualization, emotional honesty, imagism, verse, activism, English and French, surrealism, glosas, villanelles, open fields, vers libre, academic deconstruction, and that juggling trick Leonard Cohen did with the oranges. Most commonly, classicism references the artistic works of ancient Greece—usually to foster humanist values. In this review I look at four Canadian poetry books that reference classical Greek modes.

 

Philip Resnick’s Footsteps of the Past is exquisite. Poems such as “West Coast Mythis-torema” and “Paris on a Sunday Afternoon” are tours de force of Greek metrics: mus­cular objects like Greek statues in marble: “limbs and flesh so dear / that words, you feel, are puffs of hollow air, / and images of love / Pygmalions carved in sandstone or in wax” (“Paris on a Sunday Afternoon”). Most of the other poems are satires. My work­ing model: back in the day, such jibes were sung by drunkards caught up in moonlit orgies in the Aegean hills; in civic life, satirical dramas stripped off the masks of power in dances of violence and forgiveness. Resnick’s are elegiac: “faces in a sullied looking glass / that must be digitalized / before they turn to dust” (“Cuarentena”). Often, they sound like pulpit work: “what is familiar becomes with time / a parasite in the intes­tinal flora” (“The Crown in Canada”). Resnick’s honoured dead aren’t the heroic dead of Homer and Alice Oswald, who fight in eternal battle on the scorched plains of the Middle East. They’re ghoulish. In Resnick’s reckoning, classical Greece was a wellspring of Western ideals; its citizens lived in common society, united with land and its spirits. In his Canada, this spirit lingers on in decaying fragments. The millions of people of his Vancouver, whose intellectual traditions honour Daphne and Apollo, have washed up on the shores of Raven’s sea. They have jettisoned classical unity in favour of the ability to live in tall glass rectangles. This is not courage. Reflecting the city’s ennui, many of Resnick’s poems fizzle away, as if a god has been filled with power but then, when fate hangs in the balance, slips down to the pub for a beer and to watch the Canucks lose the Stanley Cup. Classicism here grits its teeth to reveal a broad gap between realities and professed ideals, in beautiful but sad models of civic, occasional and funereal verse.

 

Nick Papaxanthos’ Love Me Tender draws on the oracular tradition of the priestesses of Apollo, who breathed sulfuric vapours to predict the future—in riddles that would ex­cite any neurolinguistic programmer today. His Love Me Tender is like a bomb of dada lobbed into an opposing trench in the Somme: “avocados fudge / blimps to raisins / the inning, lungs / in the fatso and / braids toothpaste.” It’s a bit blunt. Bombs are. Dada is. The sections “The Next Arrangement of Molecules” and “Chairlift to Hell,” though, are classic surrealist games. They just go by at warp speed, that’s all—like fanning a deck of tarot cards instead of laying them down one by one. Here’s one, to give you a taste: “the yo-yo panorama looks out gently / then returns, tinged with blood” (“At the Peak of Mt. Murder”). Fun, or what!? It’s language interrogating itself using a random­ness generator. No, wait: it’s René Char redux, differing only from the original in that Char learned his poetics in the 1940s Resistance, which certainly beat the heroism of running into machine gun fire or its contemporary equivalent, the randomness gener­ator. In Papaxanthos, the resistance continues—just faster than human sight, that’s all, and through the global universalism of surreal imagery. What was originally a group of exiles aggrandizing their verbal powerlessness during WWI by replacing art with nonsense (as the war had replaced civilization with destruction) is now Papaxanthos aggrandizing the hurlers of Molotov cocktails (rather than hurling them.) Have a look at one of his glorifications: “The Meadow of Dents // Light slams the flowers on its way out.” It’s clever stuff. Like the Dadaists, its topic is its own cleverness. It is display and a desire to disappear all at once. That can’t be healthy. For the Dadaists, a gesture like that was violent. Here the violence is turned inward. This is dangerous territory. Another example might help: “In the Atmosphere // of headlight beams and floral bedsheets, / voices trade hellos / from faces turning shyly away.” (Both examples are from “The Next Arrangement of Molecules.”) The text here has replaced “self” identity. Now the text is lobbing the IEDs. The self? The poor thing is embarrassed. Maybe that’s how a poet has to survive in Resnick’s anti-culture: a strong, victorious book is obscured to survive within the culture it tries to replace. That’s the necessary work of a clown. It’s sad that such a ruse is needed. These surreal sequences would be stronger if not vacuum-packed into a container of a size and shape better suited to hold the ashes of Bliss Carman. Such a nod to the norms of Canadian book editing dulls the revolution within these devices. It aestheticizes them. It makes them “safe,” just another turn within a potpourri of verbal gymnastics, compressed to fit. They aren’t the aesthetic objects the book shape—and the Canadian sensibility behind it—makes them to be, and they sure aren’t safe. They deserve their own launch vehicles.

 

Dimitris Liantinis’ Hours of the Stars draws on Greek culture from within. Where Papaxanthos manipulates Greek oracular tradition through secular surrealism, Liantinis uses similarly bizarre imagery within an unbroken connection with the Greek panthe­on. Where Papaxanthos’s Canadian postmodernism employs psychology and industrial identity severed from the earth to view its roots as flotsam left over after a tsunami, recombined into steam punk bangles such as “A sink washes the air’s hands / A detour around a candle darts” (“The Vaccinated Dawn”), Liantinis’ imagery is the oracle: “mem­oirs will be written only / on the edge of the sword / that cracks the cheekbones of the night like walnuts” (“Hercules”). Liantinis lacks Resnick’s and Papaxanthos’s sense of loss, tragedy, romance and bathos. His references to the gods fill the space their emp­tiness fills. In “Aquarius,” for example, an un-named god unearths “the viscera of the desert,” but then miracle—not a burning bush but “Suddenly water drops shone / on the weight of its tiredness and / filled the sun with passengers.” It is a warning against see­ing Greece as the root of the Western tradition, which shows the material faces of God and uses art to create archetype. After all, it’s also the source of Eastern tradition, which apprehends God as archetype and uses art to arrive at material presence. This is a book to set with Seferis, Cavafy and Ritsos. It’s the real deal.

 

Of course, classical tradition isn’t just a high testosterone phalanx of monks and sui­cide bombers battling to see who has the better bronze sword and who the best desert in which to watch the mind writing on silence. It also contains Sappho, writing of her lesbian lover so passionately that no love poem has surpassed hers in 2600 years. In Hear Me Out: Letters to My Ex-Lover, Tzoutzi Matzourani makes direct nods to her: “The agony, the heart ache, the pain in the guts, the longing the yearning each felt for the other, the match, the writhing, the complete surrender” (“The Road to Hell”). She discards many parts of classical tradition. She keeps precision: “What you loved of me, you killed” (“What You Loved”). She sidesteps Plato’s annoying questioning by directly addressing her beloved. She keeps elegy: “Because simply you can’t grasp onto anyone’s hand you can’t grasp onto anything” (“The Lost 1%”)—like Heraclitus and the river you can’t step into twice: “My dry lips still had the taste of watermelon we ate at lunch time, and now, evening already, my glance was glued high up in the sky” (“A Slice of Moon With the Scent of Watermelon Fragrance”). Classical metrics are eschewed for simple stanzas built around exquisite semantic rhythms and the ebbs and flows of prose. These are the sea’s tides, so present they need never be mentioned. Don’t be fooled, though: these letters gradually reveal themselves as notes to: Matzourani’s ex-lovers, the things she has loved, and poetry’s passions and devotions. There is no oracle. This is a real woman, exploring the day-to-day triumphs and pains of love in all of its particulars, consciously aware that she is replacing an entire classical tradition of men jabbering about politics, sociology, religion, architecture, literature, philosophy, etc., with an alter­nate lens: love, and its devotions and attentions. Out of the four books here, all steeped in Greece, it’s hers that extends humanism, and with fused passion, wit and intellect. If an entire century were built on her model, we would do well.

 

        Hours of the Stars and Hear Me Out are poetic triumphs.

 

 

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Karyotakis-Polydouri

KARIOTAKIS_POLYDOURI_cover_Oct31.indd

Παρίσι

Παρίσι, ήταν καιρός τα ονείρατά μου
στο σκοτεινό πρωί σου να σκορπίσω
και να σ’ αφήσω παίρνοντας κοντά μου
τη θλιβερή χαρά να σ’ αγαπήσω.

Τώρα η Μεσόγειος λυγερή σειρήνα
που στο πλοίο μας γύρω αφροκοπάει
κι’ όλα του αφρού της τα κατάσπρα κρίνα
ένας σκοπός: μακριά σου να με πάη.

Κ’ ύστερα σα σιμώσουμε κει πέρα,
θάρθη προσταχτικό το φως ν’ ανοίξη
τα μάτια μου στην τρισγαλάζια μέρα
και την ενθύμησή σου να μου πνίξη.

Κ’ ύστερα τα νησιά της θα χυμήσουν.
Κ’ η Αθήνα, ξέρω, δε θ’ αργοπορήση.
Θε να στηθούνε να μου πολεμήσουν
της αμαρτίας τον έρωτα, Παρίσι!

Και θα θελήσουν να ξεχάσω πόσο
σου δόθηκεν αμέσως η ψυχή μου.
Καθώς χωρίς την έγνοια ν’ ανταμώσω
γύριζα μέσ’ στους δρόμους μοναχή μου.

Όμως παντού έπιανα εύκολα φιλίες
γιατί σα να με ξέραν μου γελούσαν
παντού, σπίτια και πάρκα κ’ εκκλησίες
κι’ όταν ξαναπερνούσα μου μιλούσαν.
Και θα θελήσουν να ξεχάσω, πόση
καινούργια νειότη συ μούχες χαρίσει,
πως τη μοίρα μου ακόμα έχω ανταμώσει
γυρίζοντας στους δρόμους σου, Παρίσι

 

PARIS

 

Oh Paris, it was time when

I scattered my dreams in your dark mornings

and now I leave you taking with me

the sorrowful joy that I love you.

 

The Mediterranean delicate siren

that flows around our ship

with all its frothy lilies

now takes me away from you

 

but we shall meet again in the future

when light will come carefully to open

my eyes before the gleaming blue day

that helps me live with your memory

 

and then its islands will charge

Athens, I know, isn’t far behind

and they’ll stand and fight

my sinful love for you, oh Paris,

 

and they will wish me to forget

how sweetly I gave you my soul

not longing to meet anyone

when I aimlessly saunter in your streets

 

Karyotakis-Polydouri/The Tragic Love Story, Libros Libertad, 2016

www.libroslibertad.com

Cloe and Alexandra

cloe-and-alexandra_cover_aug265

ΓΥΜΝΙΑ

 

Χθες βράδυ σ’ ονειρεύτηκα.

Με τα φώτα της πόλης για μάτια,

 

το σώμα γυμνό,

 

μυρωδιά ανοιξιάτικης λεύκας

και για μόνο κάλυμμα

 

το σκοτάδι.

                      

 

NAKEDNESS

 

Last night I dreamed of you.

Under the city lights

 

your body naked

 

scent of spring poplar

and for cover

 

only darkness.

 

~CLOE and ALEXANDRA, μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη, Libros Libertad, 2013

www.libroslibertad.com

www.manolisaligizakis.com

 

 

KARYOTAKIS-POLYDOURI

kariotakis_polydouri_cover1

ΕΙΜΑΙ ΤΟ ΛΟΥΛΟΥΔΙ

Είμαι το λουλούδι που σιγά το τρώει το κρυφό σαράκι.
Δε με τυραννάει το άγριο κακοκαίρι, όπως τάλλα εμένα
και της χλωμιασμένης μου όψης δε μαδάνε ένα ένα τα φύλλα.
Οι καλές οι μοίρες κ’ οι κακές καρτέρι κι αν μώχουν στημένα,
σάμπως πεταλούδες να με τριγυρνάνε νοιώθω ανατριχίλα.

Είμαι το λουλούδι που σιγά το τρώει το κρυφό σαράκι.
Γέννημα και θρέμμα στην ψυχή μου μέσα το κακό φωλιάζει.
Και ζωή και χάρος είμαι, απ’ τη γελάστρα τύχη δεν προσμένω.
Αψηλό κι’ ωραίο στήνω το κορμί μου κι’ άλλο δε μου μοιάζει.
Όμως όταν δείξω τις πληγές μου στάστρα, θάμαι πεθαμένο.

 

I’M THE FLOWER

 

I’m the flower ravaged by a secret heart ache

the hot summer doesn’t bother me like other times

and the leaves of my wilted face don’t fall one by one.

Good omens and bad luck lurk ready to attack

and I shiver as if butterflies flutter all around me.

 

I’m the flower ravaged by a secret heart ache

the evil, born and raised in my soul, nests inside me.

I’m life and death and I don’t expect much from the foolish fate

I stand tall and beautiful unlike any other

and when I’ll show my wounds to the stars, I’ll be dead.

 

KARYOTAKIS-POLYDOURI//THE TRAGIC LOVE STORY, Libros Libertad, 2016

www.manolisaligizakis.com

Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke//Κατερίνα Αγγελάκη Ρούκ

aggelakirouk-thumb-large

 

ΣΤΙΓΜΙΑΙΑ ΖΩΗ

Είχα κλείσει όλα τα παράθυρα
που έβλεπαν στον κήπο της σάρκας.
Τα παντζούρια μόνο άγγιζαν
τα κλαδιά της αγάπης
που έγερναν ξεραμένα
κι άγγιζαν το χώμα.
Μακριά στεκόμουνα
από τη θέα των θνητών αστεριών
φυλαγόμουνα μήπως κι επιθυμήσω.
Και τώρα; Χωρίς τίποτα ν’ αλλάξει
υπήρξε μόνο μια στιγμή
όπου ένα εύγλωττο βλέμμα
περιέγραφε κάτι
ασύγκριτα πιο συναρπαστικό
απ’ τη δική μου πραγματικότητα.

 

MOMENTARY LIFE

I had closed all the windows
that looked into the garden of flesh.
The shutters only touched
the tree branches of love
that hanged dry
and touched the ground.
I stayed away from
the view of mortal stars
I hid myself just not to desire.
And now? With nothing changed
there was only one moment
when the keen eye
would describe something
incomparably more exciting
than my own reality

 

~Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke, translated by Manolis Aligizakis

Kiki Dimoula//Κική Δημουλά

kiki-dimoula

ΚΕΝΟ

Με τη σφεντόνα διαίσθηση
ρίχνουμε θάνατο στη σωτηρία μας
εκ των ενδεχομένων.
Το κρίμα το σηκώνει ατάραχη η πείρα.
Τα περασμένα ψιχαλίζουν μέσα μας
τη μοχθηρία του φευγαλέου.

Καταιγίδα τώρα πέφτει πάνω μας
το απραγματοποίητο.
Λουζόμαστε με μαλαγχολία
καθώς ξεκινάμε
στην ανελέητη κάψα της ανάγκης.

 

VOID

With our sense a slingshot
we slaughter the possibility
of our salvation
the collected experience carries the sin
the past drizzles inside us
the hatred of the fleeting.

Now the tempest falls on us
like the unaccomplished.
We bathe in melancholy
as we wake up
in the merciless stress of the need.
~ΕΡΕΒΟΣ-EREBUS, by KIKI DIMOULA, ΙΚΑΡΟΣ, 1956, // translated by Manolis Aligizakis

 

TZOUTZI MANTZOURANI//ΤΖΟΥΤΖΗ ΜΑΝΤΖΟΥΡΑΝΗ

Hear Me Out_cover_Jun9.indd

 

http://www.spreaker.com/user/6314317/air-play-poetry-corner-hear-me-out

I Want You ‘Now’

Now, here, next to me!
I don’t want you to come tomorrow. I don’t want you to tell me
what time you’ll come.
I want you to come in the night and ring the doorbell, suddenly,
when I’m asleep.
Without me knowing it!
Unexpectedly!
To come and ring the bell and as I would open the door half
asleep and startled you’ll slip under my blankets and I would
never wake up until morning and in your arms.
I want to wake up and smell the fragrance of your cologne when
you shave in the bathroom.
You’ll kiss me as you leave and I shall go back to the unravelled
bed sheets. I’ll hear the door close behind you I’ll smile as if I’m
in a dream, while I would still be asleep.
And when I get up hours later not to know whether it was a
dream or reality that I dreamed or I truly experienced all this.

Τώρα σε θέλω!

Τώρα! Εδώ! Πλάι μου
Δεν θέλω να ’ρθεις αύριο! Δεν θέλω να μου πεις τι ώρα θα ’ρθεις!
Θέλω να μου χτυπήσεις το κουδούνι μέσα στη νύχτα, έτσι στα ξαφνικά, όταν θα κοιμάμαι.
Χωρίς να το ξέρω!
Χωρίς να το περιμένω!
Να χτυπήσεις το κουδούνι κι όπως θα σου ανοίξω μισοκοιμισμένη και ξαφνιασμένη, να χωθείς μέσα στο κρεβάτι μου και να μην προλάβω να ξυπνήσω άλλο, παρά μόνο το πρωί στην αγκαλιά σου.
Θέλω να ξυπνήσω απ’ τη μυρωδιά της κολόνιας σου, όταν θα ξυρίζεσαι στο μπάνιο το πρωί.
Να με φιλήσεις φεύγοντας κι εγώ να πάρω στροφή μέσα στα ανακατωμένα σεντόνια. Κι όταν ακούσω την πόρτα να κλείνει πίσω σου, να χαμογελάσω σαν να βλέπω όνειρο, ενώ θα κοιμάμαι ακόμη.
Κι όταν ξυπνήσω μετά από ώρα, να μη ξέρω αν ήταν ψέματα ή αλήθεια, αν το ονειρεύτηκα ή το έζησα όλο αυτό τελικά.

~HEAR ME OUT, Tzoutzi Mantzourani, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2015
http://www.libroslibertad.ca

 

 

 

Kiki Dimoula//Κική Δημουλά

kiki-dimoula

ΕΡΕΒΟΣ

Σκύβοντας πάνω
απ’ της ψυχής μου τη συσκότιση
στίχους ισχνούς θα επιδείξω
αποκλεισμένους από απρόσμενη κακοκαιρία
που πλήγωσε θανάσιμα
κάποιο δειλό μου λυκαυγές.

Πολλά θα λεν οι στίχοι αυτοί,
θα δείτε, θα διαβάσετε.
Ο τελευταίος μόνο στίχος
τίποτε δεν θα λέει.
Κοιτώντας θλιβερά τους πρηγούμενους
θα κλαίει.
EREBUS

Stooped over
the darkest hour of my soul
I shall present thin verses
cordoned off by an unexpected tempest
that fatally wounded
my once timid sunrise.

These verses will tell a lot
you’ll see, you’ll read them
only the last one
won’t say anything
but upon seeing the verses above it
it will lament.
~ΕΡΕΒΟΣ-EREBUS, by KIKI DIMOULA, ΙΚΑΡΟΣ, 1956, // translated by Manolis Aligizakis

Katerina Gogou//Κατερίνα Γώγου

gvgou

A

With my head in smithereens
by the vise of your bargainings
at the height of the traffic jam and opposite it
I’ll light a great fire
and I’ll throw all the Marxist books in it
that Myrto will never learn
the cause of my death.
You can tell her
I couldn’t endure the spring or that I cross the road with a red light.
Yes. This is more believable:
with a red light. This you can say.
Α

Με το κεφάλι θρύψαλα
απ’ τη μέγκενη των παζαριών σας
την ώρα της αιχμής και κόντρα στο ρεύμα
θ’ ανάψω μια μεγάλη φωτιά
κι εκεί θα ρίξω όλα τα μαρξιστικά βιβλία
έτσι που να μη μάθει ποτέ η Μυρτώ
τα αίτια του θανάτου μου.
Μπορείτε να της πείτε
πως δεν άντεξα την άνοιξη ή πως πέρασα με κόκκινο.
Ναι. Αυτό είναι πιο πιστευτό.
Με κόκκινο. Αυτό να πείτε.
~Κατερίνας Γώγου/Katerina Gogou, Τα τελευταία Ποιήματα
~Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη/Translated by Manolis Aligizakis

 

BIOGRAPHY

Katerina Gogou (Greek: Κατερίνα Γώγου; 1 June 1940 – 3 October 1993) was a Greek poet, author and actress. Before her suicide by pill overdose at the age of 53, Gogou appeared in over thirty Greek films. She was born in Athens, Greece.
One of her books was translated into English, “Three clicks left” in the United States in 1983 by Jack Hirschman and published by “Night Horn Books” in San Francisco. The Greek title was, ‘Τρία κλικ αριστερά’, and first published by Kastaniotis in 1978. Her poetry was known for its rebellious and communist content.
As an actress she was known for lesser roles of rebellious free spirited women. She won the first women’s award at the Salonica film festival.
As a poet she is known for her antiestablishment poems and her anarchist ideals. Her verse is filled by indignation and refute however her ideals, her wounded psychological state lead her to suicide at the age of 53.
Numerous poems written by Gogou appeared in the Greek film ‘Parangelia’ about the life of Nikos Koemtzis who, in 1973, killed three individuals (two of whom were policemen) and injured another eight at a bouzouki club in Athens over a dance.

Kiki Dimoula//Κική Δημουλά

kiki-dimoula

ΜΟΝΟΚΟΝΤΥΛΙΕΣ

Εύκολα περιγράφομαι και λύνομαι
με μονοκοντυλιές.
Δεν είναι βαρετό αυτό
τις χειμωνιάτικες νύχτες.

Τραβήξτε πρώτα μια στερεά
μπηγμένη κατακόρυφα.
Αυτή θα `ναι η πίστη μου.
Μιαν άλλη αμέσως από απέναντι
βυθίστε την στο κέτρο της σχεδόν,
κατάλληλα έτσι
να μοιάζ’ η πρώτη κλονισμένη.
Βάλτε μεγάλες πλάι σε μικρές,
αχνές σε τονισμένες δίπλα,
να δείχνουνε τις τάσεις μου.
Φριντίστε αυτές να μην τελειώνουνε ποτέ
γιατί θα συντομέψετε άσχημα τη λύση μου.
Πετάξτε σκόρπιες μερικές
αλλά σ’ απίθανη κατεύθυνση,
τις αντιφάσεις μου.
Δύο μεγάλες κεντρικές προσθέστε
με του μοιραίου το χάσμα ανάμεσά τους.

Τώρα με το μολύβι
(ή με τη φαντασία σας)
φροντίστε πάνω από αυτά
μια καταχνιά να κάθεται,
γιατί με σκέτη μονοκοντυλιά
η θλίψη μου δεν περιγράφεται.

SINGLE STROKES OF THE PEN

You may easily describe and explain me
with single strokes of the pen.
It isn’t boring
during the winter nights.

A firm one you may draw up front
thrust it in vertically.
This will be my faith.
Another one you may draw from the opposite direction
thrust it deep into the center of the first
appropriately that the first one
will seem exhausted.
Place some long ones next to the short
the vague ones next to the underlined
to underscore my inclinations.
Make sure these don’t ever end
unless the explanation of me is shortened.
Scatter a few
of my objections
to all directions.
Add two long ones in the center
and between them the void of the inevitable.

Now with the pencil
(or your imagination)
make sure some mist hangs
over all these
cause with just one stroke of the pen
you can’t explain my sorrow.

~ΕΡΕΒΟΣ-EREBUS, by KIKI DIMOULA, ΙΚΑΡΟΣ, 1956, // translated by Manolis Aligizakis