THE MEDUSA GLANCE-REVIEW
The Medusa Glance is a present-day triptych, a rich and profoundly nuanced contemporary narrative, sensitive to all the immanent and minute shades of reality, aspiring to embrace and incorporate the whole spectrum of lived experience. As a key motive, the author invokes Medusa, the female monster with venomous snakes on hear head. Stricken with fear, we are nonetheless tempted to be immersed in the poetic universe of Manolis. The epigraph characterizes the bold enterprise of the author aimed at the explicitation of the inner architecture and dynamics of experience, at the renewal of narrative practices and at the constant (re)negotiation of identity. The reader is swept away by a polychromatic tempest of verbs and embarks on a journey guiding him to the dimension of the minute and infinitely multifarious undulations of sublunary consciousness.
THE SECOND ADVENT OF ZEUS // REVIEW
By João da Penha
POET, OF FACT.
Singing, everyone sings, but singers only about ten or twelve.
The boutade, they say, is by Frank Sinatra, whose remarkable vocal skills – it seems to me – have not been contested to this day.
To paraphrase the song of the great American singer, it can be said that there are not so many poets like this in the world – here and elsewhere, yesterday and today. I suspect that there will never be many poets, or at least many great poets. At least, I am convinced, not as many as the growing number of edited collections suggest, by marketing strategy arts, just under hyperbolic titles.
SENSUALITY IN MANOLIS’ POETRY COMPARED TO CAVAFY AND YANNIS RITSOS
As history teaches us, the contrast between life and art has made it easy to think of Cavafy in the abstract, as an artist whose work exists free from tradition and attachment to a specific moment in time. This trend has been prompted by the two elements of his poetry for which he is most famous: his surprisingly contemporary theme (one of his themes, at least), and his attractive and direct style.
Certainly there have always been many readers who appreciate the so-called historical poems, situated in magical places of the Mediterranean during times that have been long dead and acrimonious with sociable irony and a certain tired stoicism. (“Ithaca gave you the beautiful journey, / without her you would not have put in the passage. / But now she has nothing to give you,” he writes in what may be the most famous evocation of ancient Greek culture: the journey is always more important than the fatefully disappointing destination.) This can be seen in the poem:
Honor to all of those who in their lives
have settled on, and guard, a Thermopylae.
Never stirring from their obligations;
just and equitable in all of their affairs,
but full of pity, nonetheless, and of compassion;
generous whenever they’re rich, and again
when they’re poor, generous in small things,
and helping out, again, as much as they are able;
always speaking nothing but the truth,
yet without any hatred for those who lie.
And more honor still is due to them
when they foresee (and many do foresee)
that Ephialtes will make his appearance in the end,
and that the Medes will eventually break through
But it is probably fair to say that the popular reputation of Cavafy rests almost entirely on the remarkably preexisting way in which his other “sensual” poems, often not considered as this poet’s gift, deal with the ever-fascinating and pertinent themes of erotic desire, realization and loss.
The way, too, when memory preserves what desire so often cannot sustain. That desire and longing only makes it appear more contemporary, closer to our own times. Perhaps this is the case with Manolis’ poem:
After leaving our marks
on the sole lamppost
she to the west
I to the east
with a promise
to meet again
by this lamppost
and trace our marks
though we never thought of the Sirens
the Cyclops and the angry Poseidon
though we never thought of the pricey
No one but Cavafy, who studied history not only eagerly but with a studious respect and meticulous attention to detail, would have recognized the dangers of abstracting people from their historical contexts; and nowhere is this abstraction more dangerous than in the case of Cavafy himself.
You said: “I’ll go to another land, to another sea;
I’ll find another city better than this one.
Every effort I make is ill-fated, doomed;
and my heart —like a dead thing—lies buried.
How long will my mind continue to wither like this?
Everywhere I turn my eyes, wherever they happen to fall
I see the black ruins of my life, here
where I’ve squandered, wasted and ruined so many years.”
New lands you will not find, you will not find other seas.
The city will follow you. You will return to the same streets.
You will age in the same neighborhoods; and in these
same houses you will turn gray. You will always
arrive in the same city. Don’t even hope to escape it,
there is no ship for you, no road out of town.
As you have wasted your life here, in this small corner
you’ve wasted it in the whole world.
Surely his work is as good as great poetry can be and at the same time timeless in the way we like to think that great literature can be alchemizing details of the poet’s life, times and obsessions into something relevant to a large audience over the years and even centuries.
But the tendency to see Cavafy as one of us, as one in our own time, speaking to us with a voice that is transparent and admittedly ours about things whose meaning is self-evident, threatens to take away a specific detail one that, if we give it back to him, makes him look larger than life and more a poet of the future, as it was once described, rather than the time he lived in. This detail also pertains to the biography of Manolis who refers to mythical passages of his home-country and unfolds scenes of sensuality, abandonment and loss.
Cavafy’s style, to begin with, is far less prosaic, much richer although not musical, and rooted deeply in the nineteenth century in which he lived for more than half of its life. Some readers will be surprised to learn that many of Cavafy’s poems, even when he was almost forty, were cast as sonnets or other prepared forms of verse.
Manolis was born in Kolibari a small village west of Chania on the Greek island of Crete in 1947. At an early age his family took him first to Thessaloniki and then to Athens where he was educated, earning a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from the Panteion University of Athens.
The subject in some of Cavafy which tend to be overlooked by readers as difficult are the poems deliberately placed in the dark, geographical and temporal margins of the Greek past: poems which seem not to have much to do with today’s concerns and are often passed in favor of works with more contemporary appeal.
Perhaps this is the case with Manolis who draws from the same Greek sources as Cavafy does making historical references to Greece, the cradle where his soul was born, when he creates the Greek myths interacted in his contemporary poetry. Even far from his motherland Greece where he resides now he still retains in his poetic memory, images and themes he channels through verve in this book and others.
Can Manolis channel the beauty as easily as he describes in his verse? “An ancient time leader / as an anointed and pious / a musical instrument of candor flowing free / ready to speak with words that relieve pain and free the soul?” Yes its main tool is its firsthand experience of the power of Eros. His psychological makeup attracts and conveys authenticity and happiness based on his worship and being adored by sensual and provocative female figures exposing him in an ecstatic transcendence through his bodies of lust and his deep love and dedicated understanding. It is obvious that he finds his purpose in falling in love passionately for his beloved.
He does not hide that before he emerged he wanted to become “a festival / movement song of a bird / a vesper / a simple sigh / that will heal the lips of his beloved.” If he feels impotent in the face of inconceivable and unlimited Destiny, he declares that a woman’s embrace beckons him and he likes to give in to his passion: “dark and vague circle / forever indeterminable / and this, the command / and this, the Obedience / This, the orgasm / and this, the Eros / and this is you.” He feels being favored by Eros he diffuses his burning passion with light that fills his erotic verses. As a gallant defender of lust and sensuality and the true emotions of love, he delivers the joy and joy to the soul.
Both idealism and pragmatism, messianism, but also the tradition in the languor of the senses, the subjects of love dedicated to ephemeral satisfaction and erotic drunkenness make up the changes of its vast poetic content. Having the maturity of an accomplished poet and the ability to create evocative images in a personal way, the poet introduces us to what constitutes the most brilliant expression of his most intimate thoughts and beliefs in front of the world of his time and age.
The way, too, where memory preserves what desire so often can’t sustain. That desire and longing were for other men only makes it appear more contemporary, closer in our own times as we see in this opening poem of Golden Kiss, which poem may seem obscene and prosaic created by a minor poet, but when creating by a poet as Manolis locks up the erotic aura of a Moravia.
like a bird stilled by camera lens
her scandalous vulva visits his mind
from days of that August
on the scorched island
in low tone siesta
in muffled moaning
lest the mirror would crack from tension
In the 1880s and 1890s, Constantine Cavafy was a young man with modest literary ambitions, writing verses and contributing articles, critiques and essays, mostly in Greek but in English (A language in which he was perfectly at home as a result of spending a few of his adolescence years in England), on a number of idiosyncratic subjects, Alexandria and Athenian newspapers. This similarity in biographies binds Cavafy with Manolis who lives in Vancouver and writes poems in Greek and English referring to both countries.
Yannis Ritsos was born in Monemvasia, Greece, on May 1, 1909, in a family of landowners. He did his early schooling and finished high school in Gythion, Monemvasia and after graduating in 1925, he moved to Athens where he began working on typing and copying legal documents. A year later, he returned to his home town where he spent his time writing and painting, another form of art that he devoted himself which along with his writing he kept for the rest of his life, perhaps the painting has given him elements of his sensual poems:
Our women are distant, their sheets smell of goodnight.
They put bread on the table as a token of themselves.
It’s then that we finally see we were at fault; we jump up saying,
‘Look, you’ve done too much, take it easy, I’ll light the lamp.
’She turns away with the striking of the match,
walking towards the kitchen, her face in shadow,
her back bent under the weight of so many dead –
those you both loved, those she loved, those
you alone loved . . . yes . . . and your death also
Listen: the bare boards creaking where she goes.
Listen: the dishes weeping in the dishrack.
Listen: the train taking soldiers to the front.
Sometimes the poems are invested with the fractured logic of the dream with images of dream events or they’re placed in a landscape of dreams that grows, as one reads more, more and more recognizable, less strange, always attractive. At the same time, their locations and quotations are redemptive of a completely recognizable Greece: the balconies, the geraniums, the statuary, women in their black attires and, in a lasting way, the sea. His touch is light, but its effect is profound. Much depends on the image that causes the narrative movement. Some poems are so small, so distilled, that the fragments of history given to us – the kids’ psychodramas – have an irresistible power. “The less I get the bigger it gets,” said Alberto Giacometti and the same powerful reticence is a feature in Ritsos’ shorter poems.
The content of Yannis Ritsos also deserves renewed attention – both the specific themes of the individual poems, which in fact keep the historical and the erotic in a single focus.
Eroticism is one of the appearances of man’s inner life. In this one deludes himself because one is seeking his fixed object of desire. But this object of desire responds to the internal desire. The choice of an object always depends on the individual’s personal tastes: even if it falls on the woman most would have selected, what comes into play is often an unspeakable aspect, not an objective characteristic of this woman unless she has touched the inner being of man she creates the force to choose her.
The notion of disorientation (similar, perhaps, to the effect of a mild virus), when heightened emotion puts us at odds with the world, when the aromas become sour, when a view of the garden becomes desolate, when household objects shed their purpose, is perfectly evoked in these ten lines. There is an immediate recognition of a precarious ontological state tied to a story until, a moment later, we realize that we can see that street, see that window, see through that door:
It was just luck: I open the door, the two women
side by side on the sofa
in his black handkerchief,
mother and daughter, perhaps,
staying immobile, unpronounceable, a mouthful of bread
on the table, a cat sleeping on the couch.
Looking away and the sun at the top of the waves, cicadas
the swallows attractions in blue. They look back.
I almost had it, I almost had it in one of them.
Then Mother got up and closed the door.
This poem by Yannis Ritsos refers us to another poem by Manolis but more sensual and right:
Nothing to hold onto
but ourselves in lust
and the cenotaph with
names engraved in marble
yet in this near futile void
a sudden speck of light
gleams on Suzanne’s breast
as a lightning flash like
when her eyes demanded
a deeper meaning to this: are we
to search for it during this dark night
with our two bodies as the only absolution?
The sensuality of the Mediterranean world may be in the Greek soul of the poets to a greater or lesser degree, as we have seen over the years and centuries, referring to the idea that the Greek gods though dead are alive in the souls of the Greeks: Eros and Dionysus are alive from the bygone days of yesteryears to today and even more so in the case of Manolis who lives in Vancouver but has not forgotten his Cretan roots, and he writes in both Greek and English and shows with his simple poem Golden Kiss the sensual and erotic connection between his poetry and that of Cavafy and Yannis Ritsos.
~Eric Ponty, poet, translator, Sao Paolo, Brazil, 2016
(English translation of the foreword of “Feuilles d’Automne” by Károly Sándor Pallai, published in Paris by the Éditions du Cygne in 2017)
With images spanning from worldliness to metaphysical depths inscribed on these autumn leaves, Manolis offers us a dynamic reinterpretation of the conventional relations, a reframed point of view of our inner universe, of the spirit’s gleaming and of the fluctuation between loss and contention constantly renewing itself and ceaselessly surprising and startling us, thereby outlining the nuanced philosophical portrait of the author. This collection of poems is a textual etching of the poet, a polyphony of lived experiences, impressions, sensations and forebodings. Manolis phrases the essence of his study of ethos and the interpersonal world by probing into the unexplored profundity of human nature, behavior and world of thought. He imposes on himself the daunting task to declare war upon the stumbling and inaccuracy of conventional usage in order to bring to light and to fullness the vibrations of the other world filtering through the crevices of existence.
Manolis Aligizakis visiting the tomb of Zorba the Greek novelist Nikos Kazantzakis in Crete.
This work is being touted as, “The only longhand book of its kind–a long poem 500 years old–transcribed by an 11-year-old boy.”
The text consists of 10,012 fifteen-syllable rhyming verses by Kornaros (March 29, 1553 – 1613/1614) that Manolis hand-copied in 1958 at the age of eleven.
YANNIS, WE HARDLY KNOW YOU
In an age devoid of political radicalism in poetry, a White Rock translator takes a leap of fervor.
Unsuccessfully nominated nine times for the Nobel Prize for Literature, Greek poet Yannis Ritsos (1909 — 1990) is little-know in North America.
Manolis Aligizakis of White Rock hopes to change that. From among Ritsos’ 46 volumes of poetry, Cretan-born Manolis (his pen name excludes the last name Aligizakis) has translated fifteen of the poet’s books for an unusually hefty volume, Yannis Ritsos-Poems (Libros Libertad $ 34), presenting a panorama of Ritsos’ work from the mid 1930s to the 1980s.
THE CIRCLE, a novel by Manolis Aligizakis
Born in Crete, the publisher, poet and novelist known as Manolis moved to Thessaloniki for his childhood, and went on to receive his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the Panteion University of Athens. He served in the armed forces for two years before immigrating to Canada in 1973, where he took classes in English Literature at Simon Fraser University. Manolis now writes in both English and Greek…more
Yannis Ritsos Poems–Selected Books
Translated by Manolis, Edited by Apryl Leaf, LibrosLibertad, Surrey BC
Review by Amy Henry
A careful hand is needed to translate the poems of Yannis Ritsos, and Manolis is the ideal poet to undertake such an enormous task. Born in Crete, Manolis’s youth was intermingled with the poetry of Ritsos. Once a young man moved by the Theodorakis version of Epitaphios, he’s now a successful poet in his own right who is still moved to tears hearing the refrains of those notes from half a century ago. His Greek heritage, with its knowledge of the terrain, people, history and cultural themes, makes his translation all the more true to what Ritsos intended. Having visited the very places of which Ritsos wrote, he knows how the light and sea shift, and how Ritsos imagined those changes as being a temperament and personality of the Greece itself.
George Seferis’ Collected Poems
Sep 26, 2013
George Seferis, Collected Poems
Surrey: Libros Libertad, 2012.
For a poet of his stature, there are remarkably few English translations of George Seferis’s work. A giant of Greek poetry and 20th Century European poetry in general, Seferis (1900–1971) inherited the oldest surviving language of the West and brought its poetry into the modern world. He wrote during a long career as a diplomat with postings in Turkey, Albania, around the Middle East, Iraq, and the United Kingdom, and picked up numerous accolades, along with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963.
Poetry, EKSTASIS EDITIONS
Ubermensch, by Manolis Aligizakis is the most difficult and most philosophical poetry book I have come across. And rightfully so since it is identified with Nietzsche’s “Ubermensch” so much in the plot as much in the concepts. The poet “toys” with the various conventions as he firstly relates Ubermensch to true dimension given to him by the German philosopher and secondly to the misinterpretation given to the concept by the German ‘national-socialists’ with the horrible results that followed and affected the whole world.
Before we describe Manolis Algizakis’ Ubermensch, let us quickly look at what Nietzsche anticipated from his treatise. In simple words Nietzsche posited man opposite his abilities and responsibilities which should he had used wisely, he could overcome every obstacle. With the right use of his logic and his instinct as his primal levers man can live in a free and just society where everyone is master of himself. Nietzsche, of course, never described the moral dimension of Ubermensch, as the author claimed, as he appeared to fill the void created by the lack of authority and the Death of God. Ubermensch therefore is a redeemer, defender of morality but at the same time uncontrollable, as far as it concerns his ulterior plans for the world that remain vague…
‘Eroticism in the Poetry of Manolis Aligizakis’ by Alexandra Bakonika
Poet Manolis Aligizakis has familiarized himself with the tragedy by seeing life through the multi-faceted lens of observation and by living experiences that gave him the ability to perceive first-hand the injustice, exploitation, greediness and the various expressions of violence. Unquestionably the ugliness of this world saddens him like a wound that doesn’t heal. When he feels uncertain with himself and divided in two we find in his poetry a messianic sense that leads him to wish to change the world and make it better free of all ugliness and lawlessness. However he has no illusion that idealism, visions and civility are things easily accomplished. If great gestures and practical action retreat before the opposition, at least what one can achieve through messianic ideas is the beauty through poetry that brings harmony, enjoyment and ultimately truth….
‘NOSTOS and ALGOS–A REVIEW’ by Cloe Koutsoubelis
Awareness is the title of the first poem of this collection and not without reason.
The poet selects this poem as the first one but one wonders: awareness for what? Is it because this poetry collection is subject of the natural laws of decay, like tree leaves that turn yellow and fall at some moment leaving behind them the gaping void that lies under every poetry collection behind every creative form? Or is it awareness because, as the last verses claim, nothing stays forever?
The collection is dedicated to his parents who lived their last years in the village and the second poem of the book “Old Couple” is at that exact place with images such, olives, feta cheese, wine, salad under the grape vine, monologue of loneliness, epilogue of their lives. Agony for a son away in a foreign land but expectation, longing, and the everyday events transcend into moments of happiness and laughter, you forgot to make the salad.
‘NOSTOS and ALGOS–A REVIEW’ by Cloe Koutsoubelis
OPERA BUFA–REVIEW by AMY HENRY
Opera Bufa is the latest collection of poetry from the Greek poet Manolis. A departure from his more serious poetry of the past, this collection toys with the ideas of Albert Camus and his concept of absurdism. The result is at times comic, poignant, and often striking in the truth revealed in illusions.
“In Camus’ works…his emphasis had been on the presentation of the absurd as a crisis for the self’s yearning for lucidity and meaning in a world that is opaque and unresponsive.” And yet he further explains that “the sensibility of the absurd is not born out of any dark, morbid sense of nihilism, but is the result of a certain love and longing for life” (Thoyakkat 3).
Camus contrasted, with his Myth of Sisyphus, how poorly the purposed, meaningful life fits in a world of chance and unpredictable outcomes. Essentially, how can one find meaning if no meaning is to be had-do they continue to persevere or give up? Camus acknowledged that some find purpose with a belief in a higher-power God figure, while others live for the moment, intending to enjoy the here-and-now rather than live for a distant and possibly nonexistent future.
TRIPTYCH-A REVIEW, by AMY HENRY
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”
“yet something lurks in the diaphaneity of glass”—-from “Mirror”
Glass is not necessarily clear, just as a mirror doesn’t always reflect reality. In Rendition, the poet Manolis reveals layers of meaning that appear as elusive as a shadow on a broken shard of glass. Quotes from Federico Garcia Lorca and T.S. Eliot preface the segments of the book, and there is a sense of warning given throughout to the reader to focus on the present instead of being immersed in the past or in rehearsal for the future. As always, the language is picturesque, and Manolis describes inner thoughts and outer dialogue in a way that shows the battle between the two, especially in “Tolling Bell”, where grief is disturbed by the necessity of trivial funeral preparations.
Mar 19, 2010 – Peace Arch News
By Alex Browne
You sit on the marble steps
staring as the pigeons fly at you
like in sacred formation
as if someone orders them to pattern
like a crescent moon or
a fresh oval bread loaf
and you toss a few crumbs
hoping that they stop
and come like new hopes or as omen
for fortune your father said birds
landing on your shoulder taking food
from your hand foretells
long life and happiness
Rendition, the latest collection of poetry by Manolis Aligizakis, joins other tomes by this prolific Greek-Canadian poet and novelist (in 2009 alone, he published two collections: Impulses and Nuances). It’s obviously an advantage to be the owner of your own publishing house – Libros Libertad, which turns out a stunningly regular series of releases by authors both local and more far afield, is the South Surrey-based brainchild of Aligizakis. But he has no reason to apologize for the quality of his work. Manolis’ strongly imagistic, and sometimes deceptively simple, style is based on deep and profound musings on the human condition, amid a symbolic context of nature. Rendition is a provocative collection for lovers of poetry that joins Manolis’ other work in providing both quiet pleasures and unexpected epiphanies.