Archive for the ‘Manolis Aligizakis’ Category

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: Mantzourani’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.

 

 

 

 

cover

ΚΑΜΙΑ φορά, ξυπνάω τη νύχτα, ανάβω τη λάμπα και στέκο-
μαι εκεί, απέναντι στον ξένο, το πρωί βέβαια, δεν έμενε τίποτα,
μονάχα ένα ανεπαίσθητο σημάδι, που θα μπορούσε να το πάρει κα-
νείς για μια σταγόνα κερί, ενώ ήταν ίσως το ασυγχώρητο που
κανείς δεν το`βλεπε, μόνο το παλιό λησμονημένο όργανο ακουγό-
ταν στο υπόγειο, και θα `πρεπε να `χω θάψει, Θεέ μου, από καιρό
τα ενθύμια, γιατί και το αναπόφευκτο έτσι ελάχιστα αρχίζει,
καθόμουν, λοιπόν, τις νύχτες στη σκάλα περιμένοντας αυτόν
που θα νικούσε τον σιωπηλό κόσμο, και θα `παιρνε τη μεγάλη βελό-
να του πλεξίματος που κρατούσα, σαν τις γυναίκες, την ώρα που οι
άλλοι κοιμούνται, αφηρημένες πάνω στο εργόχειρο, έχουν ακολου-
θήσει κιόλας εκείνον που αιώνια μας προσπερνά.

SOMETIMES during the night I wake up Ι light the lamp and
stand there opposite the foreigner; at daybreak of course nothing was
left but an imperceptible mark that one could take as a drop of
wax while it was, perhaps the unforgivable which no one could see
only the old forgotten organ was heard in the basement, oh God,
I should have long ago buried all the mementos because even
the inescapable commences as simple as that,
yet at night I would sit by the stairs and wait for the one who
would defeat the silent world and would take the big needle of cross
stitching I held like women who while the others were asleep,
lost in their embroidery, have already followed the one who
forever walks ahead of us.

~Τάσου Λειβαδίτη-Εκλεγμένα Ποιήματα/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη
~Tasos Livaditis-Selected Poems/Translated by Manolis Aligizakis
http://www.libroslibertad.ca
http://www.authormanolis.wordpress.com

cover

ΥΠΟΜΝΗΣΗ

Το δωμάτιο συνοικιακό, με λιγοστά έπιπλα, σαν περικοπή απ’
το Ευαγγέλιο — έτσι τέλειωσαν όλα γρήγορα κι η Ιωάννα κλαί-
γοντας πίσω απ’ το σταθμό, εξάλλου ήταν ένα μυστικό υπέροχο που
το ξεχνούσα μόλις πήγαινα να το πω, άνοιξα τότε τη θήκη του
βιολιού — και μόνο, καμιά φορά, με πιάνει το παράπονο και φοράω
τη γραβάτα μου μ’ έναν τέτοιο τρόπο, που να καταλάβουν, επιτέλους,
ότι είμαι από καιρό κρεμασμένος.
REMINDER

The room was in the suburbs, with a few pieces of furniture
like a Gospel quotation — so everything finished quickly and
Joanna cried and run back to the station; on the other hand it was
a secret that I’d forget it as I tried to mention it; then I opened the
violin case — and only, at sometimes when I grieve, I put on my
tie in such a way that they at least understand
I have been hanging for a long time.
~Τάσου Λειβαδίτη-Εκλεγμένα Ποιήματα/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη
~Tasos Livaditis-Selected Poems/Translated by Manolis Aligizakis
http://www.libroslibertad.ca
http://www.authormanolis.wordpress.com

35774-tl
ΑΠΛΑ ΛΟΓΙΑ
Βράδυ όμοιο σχεδόν με τ’ άλλα: η πλήξη, λιγοστό φως,
οι χαμένοι δρόμοι
κι άξαφνα κάποιος που σου λέει “είμαι φτωχός”, σαν να
σου δίνει μια μεγάλη υπόσχεση.

SIMPLE WORDS
The night almost same as all others: tediousness,
the faint light, lost paths
and suddenly someone says to you “I’m poor”, as though
giving you a great promise.
~Τάσου Λειβαδίτη-Εκλεγμένα Ποιήματα/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη
~Tasos Livaditis-Selected Poems/Translated by Manolis Aligizakis
http://www.libroslibertad.ca
http://www.authormanolis.wordpress.com

Ritsos_front large
Στό στρατώνα

Τό φεγγάρι μπήκε στό στρατώνα.
Ψαχούλεψε τίς κουβέρτες τών φαντάρων.
Έπιασε ένα γυμνό χέρι. Κοιμήσου.
Κάποιος παραμιλάει. Κάποιος ροχαλίζει.
Μιά σκιά χειρονομεί στό μακρύ τοίχο.
Πέρασε τό τελευταίο τράμ. Ησυχία.

Μπορεί όλοι αυτοί νάναι αύριο πεθαμένοι;
Μπορεί από τώρα κιόλας νάναι πεθαμένοι;

Ένας φαντάρος ξύπνησε.
Κοιτάζει γύρω μέ γυάλινα μάτια.
Μιά κλωστή αίμα κρέμεται απ’ τά χείλη τού φεγγαριού.
In the Barracks

The moon entered the barracks.
It rummaged in the soldiers’ blankets.
Touched an undressed arm. Go to sleep.
Someone talks in his sleep. Someone snores.
A shadow gestures on the long wall.
The last trolley bus went by. Quietness.

Can all these be dead tomorrow?
Can they be dead from right now?

A soldier woke up.
He looks around with glassy eyes.
A thread of blood hangs from the moon’s lips.
~Γιάννη Ρίτσου-ποιήματα/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη
~Yannis Ritsos-Poems/translated by Manolis Aligizakis
http://www.authormanolis.wordpress.com
http://www.libroslibertad.ca

nostos and algos cover

ΚΛΑΔΙΑ

Σπασμένα κλαδια δέντρου
μπλεγμένα σαν τα όνειρα
που κάποτε είχες στου αγέρα
το καλόβολο φύσημα και πώς
να ξεμπερδέψεις με την άγκυρα
που έδεσες στα πόδια σου
και σαν σπασμένο κλαδί κρέμεσαι
απ’ το κενό κι άδοξα
να περιμένεις κάποια λύση
που ξεφεύγει λογικού
και μια παράξενη στατικότητα σε κυβερνά
σαν θάνατος πρίν απ’ το θάνατο

κι είπες—

πιλότος θα γίνω στην επόμενη ζωή
για να πετώ ψηλά στα σύννεφα.
BRANCHES

Broken branches of the tree
entwined like the dreams
you once had
free in the wind’s temper and
how you managed to tie
an anchor on your ankle and now
you hang from a tree branch
as though by a thread
over the void waiting for
a solution to your problem
strange stagnation governing
your thoughts like death
before death

and you said—

in the next life I’ll become a pilot
to fly high in the clouds

!cid_73928743-773D-47E5-B066-8F82C0F99FC6@local

ΕΝ ΤΗ ΟΔΩ

Τό συμπαθητικό του πρόσωπο, κομάτι ωχρό
τα καστανά του μάτια, σαν κομένα
είκοσι πέντ’ ετών, πλην μοιάζει μάλλον είκοσι
με κάτι καλλιτεχνικό στο ντύσιμο του
—τίποτε χρώμα της κραβάτας, σχήμα του κολλάρου—
ασκόπως περπατεί μες στην οδό
ακόμη σαν υπνωτισμένος απ’ την άνομη ηδονή
από την πολύ άνομη ηδονή που απέκτησε.
IN THE STREET

His likeable face, kind of pale;
his brown eyes, kind of sleepy;
twenty five years old, but he looks more like twenty;
with something artistic in his clothes,
a bit of color in his tie, the shape of his collar—
aimlessly he walks the streets,
as if still hypnotized by the questionable delight,
the carnal delight he has just enjoyed.

 

cover

Ο ΑΤΕΛΕΙΩΤΟΣ πυρετός των δρόμων, οι μεγάλες απόπνοιες απ’
τις πυρκαγιές,
και πάλι παλιές διηγήσεις, ενώ το ήρεμο αδράχτι των γυναικών
οδηγούσε μυστικά τις ώρες. Κανείς δε μας αναγνώρισε όταν γυρί-
σαμε,
καθίσαμε κι εμείς μες στην ανωνυμία μας, σαν τον ξυλοκόπο
μες στη συγνώμη των δέντρων, ώσπου σιγα σιγά μας ξέχασαν,
δεν είχαμε ούτε όνομα, ούτε προσδοκία. Όπως τ’ αγάλματα είναι
αθάνατα,
συντηρώντας μια θνητή μας ώρα.
THE ENDLESS fever of the roads the strong smell emitted
by conflagrations
and again the old stories, while the women’s serene spindle
secretly guided the hours. Nobody recognized us when we
returned
so we dwelled in our anonymity like the lumberjack
in the forgiveness of the trees until slowly they forgot of us:
we had neither name nor expectation. Like the statues that are
immortal and
they preserve our mortal hour.
~Τάσου Λειβαδίτη-Εκλεγμένα Ποιήματα/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη
~Tasos Livaditis-Selected Poems/Translated by Manolis Aligizakis
http://www.libroslibertad.ca
http://www.authormanolis.wordpress.com

74979_3629791323956_2077615219_n

ΜΥΘΙΣΤΟΡΗΜΑ ΚΔ’

Εδώ τελειώνουν τα έργα της θάλασσας, τα έργα της αγάπης.
Εκείνοι που κάποτε θα ζήσουν εδώ που τελειώνουμε
άν τύχει και μαυρίσει στη μνήμη τους το αίμα και ξεχειλίσει
άς μη μας ξεχάσουν, τις αδύναμες ψυχές μέσα στ’ ασφοδίλια,
άς γυρίσουν προς το έρεβος των θυμάτων:

Εμείς που τίποτε δεν είχαμε θα τους δείξουμε τη γαλήνη.

 

MYTHISTOREMA XXIV

 

Here end the works of the sea, the works of love.
Those who will live here someday where we die
perhaps the blood will darken in their memory and
overflow
let them not forget us, the weak souls among the asphodels
let them turn the heads of the victims toward Erebus:
We who had nothing will teach them tranquility.

~GEORGE SEFERIS-COLLECTED POEMS, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, Vancouver, Canada, 2012

Ritsos_front large

ΑΝΑΙΡΕΣΗ

Ώστε, λοιπόν, δεν είχαν όλα χαθεί. Το παράθυρο
έβλεπε ακόμη ένα κομμάτι πολιτεία, ένα κομμάτι
διαθέσιμο σχεδόν ουρανό. Ο μαραγκός, ο χτίστης,
μετέωροι στη σκαλωσιά, έρχονται πάλι πλησιέστερα.
Τα καρφιά, τα σανίδια έχουν, λοιπόν, κι άλλη χρήση,
και τ’ όνειρο πάλι κι ο τοίχος κ’ η ελάχιστη ανάσταση
κ’ η περίλυπη δόξα, χρήσιμη πάλι, θυμίζοντας
κείνες τις οδοντογλυφίδες στο τσεπάκι του γιλέκου
που, τόσα χρόνια πριν, είχαμε πάρει κρυφά
απ’ το φτηνό εστιατόριο μια χειμωνιάτικη νύχτα.
REFUTATION

So it seems it wasn’t all lost. The window
still looked out at a part of the city, an almost available
part of the sky. The carpenter, the builder,
dangling off the scaffold, they come closer again.
Then the nails, the planks, have another use
and the dream again, the wall and the faint resurrection
and the sorrowful glory, useful again, reminding us
those toothpicks in the small vest pocket
that, so many years ago, we had secretly taken
from the cheap restaurant one winter night.
~Γιάννη Ρίτσου-ποιήματα/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη
~Yannis Ritsos-Poems/translated by Manolis Aligizakis
http://www.authormanolis.wordpress.com
http://www.ekstasiseditions.com
http://www.libroslibertad.ca