El Greco

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I believe that people like Conrad, Nabokov, Jonas, Manolis, and Bronowski have an advantage in crossing over from another language; they do things with English words which native speakers would never think of. El Greco illustrates my point superbly.’

– John Skapski

Poetry, Libros Libertad 2007
Paperback 9 x 6 in
96 pages
ISBN: 9780978186548
$9.95
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“Inventive Meditations”

Jun 4, 2008 – BC Book World

By Cherie Thiessen

Since conceiving his imprint Libros Libertad in 2006, Manolis has published 11 works of poetry, memoirs, novels and diatribes including his own volume of poetry, El Greco, a tribute to the artist who is considered one the forerunners of Expressionism and Cubism.

Most widely known by his Spanish nickname, El Greco, the painter was born as Domenikos Theotokopoulos in 1541. He moved to Venice while in his twenties and settled in Toledo, Spain, where he died.

Calling El Greco a series of meditations, Manolis experiments with an offset four-line stanza form, and delights in spilling image upon image unto the page, images like mind grasping splinters. The poet’s humor bubbles up now and again, as in the first poem, Dawn, where death is personified and addressed directly by the poet, as they both share a non-fat latte.

The placement of many of El Greco’s works alongside the poetry adds another dimension to the work, enabling the reader to better appreciate Manolis’ inventive meditations.

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Synopsis

It’s hard to write poetry of affirmation in a post-modernist culture where irony is a compulsive tic. But this new collection by Manolis, a series of meditations on the life and work of the great Cretan artist Domenikos Theotokopoulos – El Greco – triumphs in its lyric intensity and open-hearted transcendentalism. This is a celebration of Hellenic culture and an affirmation of human aspiration amid the chaos of history and the muddle of consensus reality. The poet discovers epiphanies of a heightened vision in the iconography of the paintings. The offset four-line stanza form gives space for reflection and shape to his unfolding narrative.

As the poet enters the space where El Greco worked and sits before the canvasses he’s overcome by what the philosopher Colin Wilson calls “Faculty X” – an existential grasp of the actuality of the past as a living present, an intuitive gnosis. “The movement of the brush / waves through the air of / sulphur and darkness…” Vivid images from nature are linked with the exalted vision of the painter, creating a Blakean sense of the world as suffused with a divine energy. As we contemplate the paintings, reproduced in the book, our own vision is re-energized and refreshed.

 

Dawn

Nauseated with the littleness
of city non-living,
the savage humdrum
mind grasping splinters

on the surface of nowhere
never sated with the neck-down delights
and all carnal pleasures,
I embark on a quest for that

special conifer, the sequoia,
that special flower in the midst
of the impassable thicket
the man who sees man as man.

Many a time with tenderness
I shared a soft pillow with
a hardened, suspicious Death.
Many a time I took Him by the hand…

…He shares with me a non-fat latte
at the neighborhood Starbucks.
Many a time I challenged Him, and,
always with a short giggle

He walked away gracefully saying…
“Not yet…
Not yet…I
have things for you to do…”

My spirit I summon from the
realms of the void,
to descend in the roots and
trace a course.

I dive deep past all
sunlit gates of consciousness
looking for a sign,
straight like a blue spruce

with duty marked on its fresh bark.
I search for a beacon,
as the lyre slices the air
in pieces of silver.

 

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