Nature Lover by Efi Hatzimanoli draws us out of the inner world and the sense of non-belonging to bear witness to the extraordinary in the every day. Here is the slap and dance of life, and the envious ability to make one laugh out loud and then sink into grief. In Monument her strident commands to her ‘lover’ compel chuckles of the familiar together with the sadness of inevitable separation:
If I should die before you, love bury me in the garden and plant a Hill’s Hoist over me to mark the spot, I want a new one not the old one which is unstable and missing lines and not in the same position please pick a sunny spot, position for all seasons for you, too to peg your underpants and socks like low hanging fruit together with my brilliant white sheets flapping in the breeze – don’t shroud me in those infernal fitted things – to unfurl my wings of one thousand thread Egyptian cotton and stay out overnight with the tawny frogmouth and fruit bats the snakes slithering through your smalls no need to launder the soiled sheets the bat shit is there for luck in love
As Vrasidas Karalis1 states in his introduction: ‘Nature Lover is what you become when you look at what you love and realise its ephemerality.’
The specific nature of birds are honoured and interrogated in the prose poetry collection by Peter Lyssiotis. Similar to Hatzimanolis, Lyssiotis’s title (and poems) are a thoughtful combination of comedy and drama. The title particularly resonates loudly with the Cypriot dialect, mother-tongue. The moment when precious fruit from bountiful backyard trees are pecked into oblivion and the parent, usually the father, exclaims loudly to the sky Ah, Those Thieving Birds!
There is a philosophical wisdom scoring the collection, a harking back to Aesop and Aristophanes, with a premise that birds inhabit our identities and relationships, our aspirations and purpose:
We were flying in circles, the sparrow and I; round and round. My father, smoking a cigarette in his backyard, asked himself, ‘How long can they keep this up?’ We were flying, the sparrow and I. I was flying in circles and so was the sparrow. ‘How long will he go on doing this?’ I heard my mother ask, as she looked out of her kitchen window, past the lemon tree. We were flying in circles, the bird and I. I was flying clockwise and the sparrow was flying the other way around. The sparrow was chirping. It was chirping in circles. So I started talking but in larger circles – after all I was the human. Through the chirping and the talking I heard my son say, ‘The signs were there from the beginning.’
The circling up, as distinct from spiralling down, is the hope of continuation inspired by birds as our teachers. ‘… Lyssiotis enters the different places of the human condition and moves across them reconstructing his biography as poetography.’2
In a sense, we have come full circle with the final chapbook; Journeys by Antigone Kefala, which can be a continuation of the poetic discourse of Or, Ship of Dreams and the art of finding. However, here we have a strong claim by Anna Couani3 in her introduction to the accomplished collection that ‘[Kefala’s] writing voice is not so much borne out of the migrant experience, as is often claimed about her, but one that has emerged in a liminal space, that is, a space that crosses conventional or physical boundaries … What episodes of migration and travelling have done for Antigone’s work is to loosen it from any specific cultural embeddedness.’ In the space of between and across, Kefala’s poems take us travelling, they have us sit with her as she distils grand moments, such as in Greece with:
The Amphitheatre Around me faces tortured by too many harsh summers. The stage wall of massive stones with the black openings blind masks listening to the night above us. ‘What did the ancients do?’ The burning question.
Kefala is gifted with condensing a lifetime into a moment, as she captures the emotional turbulence of leaving in:
Eleni The beat of the song in the car the plaintive voices of singers calling out ‘… I am leaving… I am leaving …’ and Eleni her sad, tired eyes watching the landscape the road to the airport the sun falling relentlessly on the skeletons of the unfinished buildings the sky burning with white dust glistening in the afternoon sun while the car rushed towards another farewell.
In these poems of farewell or welcome, does the poet’s Greek mother tongue play a part? Is there an echo of her existence under the layers of foundation found in the sediment and soil of the poem? In some of my poems, I can hear her voice as sub-layer while in others she is a bare remnant. These seven poets of first and second generation Greek heritage have their unique relationship with the Greek language. They prove that Owl Publishing’s chapbook labour has yielded a feature comprised of contemporary artifacts, adding to the presence of poets based in Australia of Greek heritage.
- Professor Vrasidas Karalis, Modern Greek Studies, Sydney University. Like Castan, Kanarakis and Nickas, he has documented the output of certain Greek and Greek-Australian authors and poets. ↩
- Dr Toula D. Nicolacopoulos, Senior Lecturer, Philosophy, La Trobe University and Dr George Vassilacopoulos, from their introduction to Lyssiotis, Ah, Those Thieving Birds! ↩
- Anna Couani, is a renowned poet, creative writer, essayist and visual artist. ↩