Sunday, August 8, 2010

Triptych, Manolis (poetry)

Triptych is a new collection of poems by the Greek poet Manolis. Some of the poems refer to states of being, such as “Blushing”, “Thirsty” and “Readiness”. Most fascinating to me is how he captures a sense of motion just before it begins to take place, almost an anticipation of a gesture. You can sense the imminent action in “Suit:”

“Strutting a dark brown suit and
a creamy pale tie, nicely knotted
with a soft beige butterfly
unfurling her wings, laughter
into arms of intense sunlight where
he stands at the bus stop waiting
with those of us without suits
but geared up to arrive at work
he grips the briefcase with valuable documents
his glare cutting through the spines of those
crossing looks with him, you
could say he knows how to keep
his cool in the prison yard
since he was sprung only a month ago”

The words tell a simple story and yet underlying it all is a tension formed by the words intense, glare, cutting, grips and crossing. It’s subtle and unexpected, and you are left to imagine what violence may occur.  You feel this sense of expectation in many of the poems, and it keeps them from feeling dry or overwrought.

The words of Kahlil Gibran also surface in places, where Manolis uses them as a framework for sections of the book.  Many of the poems trace phases of relationships, especially love that is shattered by death. Manolis alludes to death frequently, as a constant uninvited guest that manages to linger. In “Teardrop”, the impression is of a grieving woman glancing at flowers, and ends with:

“…a single teardrop laughs
as you’re suppose to do
the rest of your life
Look, doesn’t it
resemble my smile?
I am in this teardrop…”

In “Affirmation”, he talks about disappointment:
“…everything you thought
you wanted so badly

all you assume you are pursuing so decisively
ends up as a dull apparition or yellow phantasm
like the sunken feeling mornings after heavy drinking
maturity nails you like a brick between the eyes…”

Throughout the references to violence and death, however, he adds scenes of light and playfulness. In “Soiled”, an injured man watches near a pond: “…two birds, arguing about taxes, one sparrow kvetching, one sparrow sobbing, for the right foot, for the left foot, for beauty of understanding…”

The collection as a whole reflects a sense of truth, represented in the balance of everyday insignificances and occasional milestones, all mixed up in the changing weather and seasons and phases of our lives.  In this truth, sometimes little things matter more than we'd expect, and greater things pass us silently.

Special thanks to Manolis of Libros Libertad of Victoria BC for this Review Copy. 
Royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to the Nile Creek Enhancement Society.

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