Thursday, October 29, 2009
By Irene Koronas
Cervena Barva Press
50 pages, $16.00
By Lo Galluccio
Unlike Irene’s first full-length book “self portrait drawn from many 65 poems in 65 years,” where she explores the formation of poetic language through grids of text which make allusion to various historical figures, including artists and saints, the new book is written more in the style of letters home or journal entries to a travelogue of her visit to Cyprus. In her dedication she reveals her own discovery: that her father never went back to Cyprus because they (the family) were more important to him than possessing the past.
But that has nothing to do with the acute beauty of the island which Koronas details in seemingly mundane lists that obviously transcend the normal, especially the normal American way of life. From April 7:
My own image crosses my path. caterpillar crawls
across ancient mud foundation, mountain’s yellow
wild flower face, I step on dry weeds, the quiver
on dry rock gnats chase each other
There is an unexpected interlude with a villager named John who takes a liking to Irene and invites her to stay in his empty house in back. She carefully navigates the relationship with this strange man, in whom she sees craziness, loneliness and compassion.
after breakfast i walk
the chalk path to john’s farm
we talk for three hours
john loved a five year old woman
with three children. She was jealous,
hooked on amphetamines.
She dreams, she walks, she talks with relatives and neighbors. After awhile sleeping on a single bed in her cousin’s house.
with bag, camera, peanuts and rain,
rain washes my hair, I duck under small tree,
sea merges with sky. on my left on my right,
mountains rub blue. My voice my walking stick
thumps, tender as aging skin, dry earth. gray
sheet hangs over distance. i run back down
full of quick insinuations
Koronas catches the moods of the days, whether she is alone exploring or participating in the village’s events. In the following anecdote the restaurant owner suggests to a group that if they lie over the saint’s skeletal home, their spinal problems will be cured.
beside an open air restaurant
a small stone chuch fits ten people
wicks in oil, incense illumines entrance
plain sarcophagas dominates space
i unzip my thoughts
spread my body over
his tomb hewn rock
Indeed saints form an overlay or backdrop of a holy tribe in Pentakomo an island which is predominantly Greek Orthodox Catholic.
icons kissed right to left. women stand,
men sit. restless children wander. Near the end of the liturgy
some of the men hold an icon of saint Irene, coffin above their heads…
There are rich, but simply told accounts of war stories and village encounters. One senses that Koronas has indeed resolved to feel the rain of this place while seeking
some protection, always wielding her camera to capture the scene-ery.
late day requests more
than i am willing to give
i do not want to leave my father
in olive groves, kourion’s basilica
wednesday night’s soft purple
yogurt on potato.
There are many layers to this work and it deserves several readings. It is fascinating to visit an unknown village on the Mediterranean, to see what of the ancient remains and what of modernity has struck through. Irene balances her own interior life and reactions with the lives of those around her and nature on the island. Her writing is never over-blown or embellished, but broken carefully into poetic lines which always stay in lower-case. Each poem corresponds to a day or a saint, an event, an encounter. It seems that she is democratizing the alphabet this way so no part of speech carries extra weight. Each poem corresponds to a day or a saint, an event, an encounter It is a style that works well with her highly visual and sensual sense. On May 13, she leaves the Pentakomo and in her final poem ends with a recipe for how to make ketheis or meatballs. Like the feminist message a while back that “history is lunch.” --that is a bit how Irene sees things-- close to the earth, the women, the saints, what nature gives us for nourishment and creativity. All these she walks through with grace, and an artist’s heart and curiosity.
I highly recommend this book.