M.S.’s poetry is a poetry of space and time – especially of space, as confirmed by the visual investment of the collection (since painting is the predominant art of space, based on shape and perspective).
In terms of the theme of space, then, the collection moves between individual/domestic space (e.g. poems 2, 3, 4, 14, 23, 26, 28, 36) and collective/urban space (e.g. poems 6, 24, 31). Even the dimension of time is often given in spatial terms (e.g. The ‘quickness’ of modern life as a suffocatingly tree-lined space: poem 16). Thus poem 39, which introduces itself to us as the central poem of the collection (since it borrows its second stanza as its title), speaks of ‘the spatiality of our day’. In any case, the reader quickly realizes that the space described (and painted) is nothing but the inner, psychic world – individual and collective by analogy. This is sometimes done by pointing (e.g. ‘In the space of our isolation’, poem 29) and sometimes by implication, as it is emblematically the case in poem 24, where we now understand that the ‘Cities’ are human relationships. And in this way the reader is ‘forced’ to go back and re-read poem 6 in the light of this new vocabulary.
And so we come to the second key element of the collection, the unity – unity between each poem and the painting on the facing page, and (sometimes) between different poems. The poem-picture relevance is sometimes explicit, given in a style of abstract realism (e.g. 2, 5, 20, 21, 22, 24, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35) and sometimes implied (e.g. is the floating boat in the image of poem 33 the boat of Art? And what is its relationship to the sinking ship in the image of poem 39?) The best moments of the poetry collection, however, are found in the section between the poems. The poet introduces this motif in an understandable way in poems 2 and 3 (an understandable way, firstly because they are consecutive poems and secondly because poem 3 is untitled, so we are legitimately reading it as a continuation of 2), where the interstices described in poem 3 are the ‘negative’ (and in visual terms) of the house without an interior in poem 2. We also observe a dialectical unity between poems 5 and 8: the ‘explanation’ given in poem 5 is the earliest justification for the claim in poem 8 that ‘there is nothing deceptive or allusive’. The most successful expression of dialectical unity is found between poems 12 and 15. The ‘first verb’ of poem 15 (v. 2) is none other than the ‘I live’ of poem 12 (v. 1), which is entitled Any verb. And the ‘Second’ verb of poem 15 (v. 4) is nothing but the ‘you live’ of poem 12 (v. 2). This correlation is supported by the rendering to ‘you live’ / ‘second verb’ of the cognate words ‘made of light’ / ‘is lighting’ respectively in the two poems. Therefore, in the light of poem 12, the meaning of poem 15 is as following: when we disregard ‘I live’ (i.e. when we let go of our egoism), then ‘you live’ (i.e. concern for our fellow man) will bring to light like-mindedness and understanding.
Among the intertextual relationships and references, three poets are holding a place of honour: Karyotakis (e.g. ‘-we live, like notes on a wet score’, poem 12 ≈ ‘We are some rickety guitars’; ‘what we set aside graph on our ceiling’, poem 28 ≈ March mournful and vertical), Shachtouris (poem 24 ≈ The Gifts, which may be the reason for the emphasis on the colour red in poems 30 and 42), and Cavafy with regard to the symbolic load of individual words, such as the words ‘the city’ or ‘the windows’ (poems 24, 35).
Ph. D. in Classics,
University of Oxford.