Saturday, October 16, 2010

"Thirty Years in the Rain”, Sparrow Moon and on Why Taygetos Is Not a Mountain

“Thirty Years in the Rain” is the title of a poem by Nikiforos Vrettakos and the title of a poetry volume – a selection of Vrettakos’ poems published by Sommerset Hall Press (Boston, MA) in the translation of Robert Zaller and Lili Bitta. Several pages from this book are available at  google books.

The dimensions of Nikiforos Vrettakos’ poetry are those of a poetic cosmogony: an inventory of the universe, of the divine presence and of chimerical states of mind:

"Poised like an eagle,
I stand above the world
- one claw in the snow,
the other in the clouds –
immovable, white."
                - from An Eagle

The poetry of Vrettakos is steeped in a grandiose and Romantic poetic discourse found at the crossroads of self & universe tempered by a realist vein, that brings, in an icy sheen, the metaphors back inside the ‘eye’s cold quarantine”:

"“I have nothing to give you” you said. “ Nothing.
My hands are empty as a sieve.”
You could hardly bear the weight. You could  hardly
plant your step.
            Your hands,
laden with stones
quarried from the sun."
                - from  II The Perforated Hands
An intriguing theme that pervades Vrettakos’ poetry is blossoming; its poetic extension yields a plethora of associations.
Blossoming is a difficult poetic theme in my opinion. Here is how Vrettakos deals with it:

"The apple tree sows its blossoms
in the wind: you fetch
rainwater in your apron
light from the wheatstalks

a moon of sparrows."
                   - from Without You

And the conclusion of this post? “Taygetos isn't a mountain.

Taygetos, the mountain in Sparta, in whose proximity Vrettakos was born, is celebrated in his poems:

“                First off
Taygetos wasn’t a mountain.
            It was the first poem
I read as I opened my eyes,
my first friend, haloed with light.”
              - from Evening Confessions.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Delphic Emphasis"

                         The sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi, Greece 

“Delphic emphasis” – two words borrowed from John Keat’s poem Endymion.

I have taken these words out of their poetic context in an attempt to summarize what can be construed as the puzzling nature of the poetic art. 

On one hand, poetry carries within it a sense of oracular enigma, the type of utterance that might have been made by Pythia in the depths of the sanctuary of Apollo (the god of poetry, among others) at Delphi.

Such utterances bring us closer to events situated beyond the realm of reality, suspended in the rarefied atmosphere of a dream.

Just like a minor Pythia, someone who endeavors to write poetry attempts to convey a message of a far away and faceless god from the vague of the surrounding harmony.

The mechanics of the poetic art reside in the effort to sift through syllables, meaning and sensorial clues, in a haze of faint euphonies that can ultimately distill into a ‘narrative’:

"High on a windblown hedge. Ocarina earth.
Three listening posts up on a some hard-baked tier
Above the resonating atmosphere."

(From Squarings, by Seamus Heaney)

Aristotle once said that “from the point of view of poetry, the convincing impossible is preferable to the unconvincing possible” – where the word “convincing” takes us to the second attribute of poetry: emphasis.

After the protracted anxiety that goes with being on the prowl for the weird, disloyal and bizarre nucleus of a text - also known as ‘metaphor’ - the poetic art would have to assume the courage of emphasis.

Once persuaded of the “convincing impossible”, the reader/writer needs to hear the clearly articulated meaning of a poetic idea, a meaning which suddenly becomes for those who grasp it, the equivalent of a center of gravity.

A center of gravity, a potential center of the universe, as a reader that becomes captive to an idea may be oblivious to the external world, tightly wounding into a different dimension.

The uncertainty of Pythia’s message has turned into a clear statement, spoken on a distant scene, towards which our attention converges.

In ancient Greece, tradition situated the center of the world, known as ‘omphalos’ at Delphi.

Hence the thought that poetic emphasis can only be a “Delphic emphasis”.

                                                         Omphalos at Delphi.

Friday, October 08, 2010

A Translated Poem

Mr. Conrad DiDiodato, a poet from the Niagara Peninsula has done me the honor to translate one of my poems from French into English -->link

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

New Season at Théâtre Français de Toronto

A new season is about to start at Théâtre Français de Toronto. In its program - a delightful play: "The School for Women" by Molière.

The Théâtre Français de Toronto's website &amp and the introduction to the new season by Mr. Guy Mignault, its artistic director:

As well a pleasant reminder from the last season with Vincent Poirier :


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