A Book Review of “Love and Metaxa” by Christina Strigas

a review by Matthew da Silva.

Love and Metaxa Review

When I was reading this book I was reminded of Billy Joel. I felt like I was seventeen again and listening to records downstairs at Vaucluse, the stereo leaking out its sweet sounds like glass through which I tried to see the outlines of my own face. Strigas uses poetry to make sense of her life like I used to use music to make sense of mine, but her enterprise is more real. As she writes in ‘Ugly is Beautiful’:

In a poem you look for peace.
In life, all you find is chaos.

But like Billy Joel the suburban magic of Strigas’ apotheosis – if you read the introduction you can get a history of the book’s becoming, and of Strigas’ journey to becoming a published author – rewards particularly because of the familiarity of the tropes, even though, as a man myself, some of the insights must be outside of my understanding from lived experience. I could never write a poem like ‘A man’, where the poet conjures up a masculine reality as a response to feelings that work to form her but that she seems to resent.

Often there seem to be two voices, one rendered on the page in italics. This second voice is like the poet’s conscience. In ‘Rinsing’ we see romantic love compared to washing clothes. This is an effective strategy as it allows the poet to boldly step into a place where the reader can also share her feelings, and possibly add some of his or her own. It’s a bright-lit room we can both inhabit at the same time – the writer and the reader – as we participate in an act of imaginative reckoning (this is what poetry’s for). You have some predictable tropes (stains, cycles) and though the poem is not long, you feel as though a considerable distance has been travelled. After all it’s thousands of miles between my house and where Strigas lives. But “step‐by‐step you know / what will come next, / then repeat.’ That final line, the last line of the poem, is an invitation not only to contemplate one’s own life, the many times you’ve thought about love as laundry (love as laundry) but it also prompts the reader to do some more work. You might even, the next time you do laundry, think about past girlfriends, past wrongs, mistakes that you thought had been left behind but that, you know, leave their traces on the fabric of your memory.

The two voices form a harmony, as though the poet were two people or one person at different times in her life. In ‘Not a love affair’ there’s the poet of the present (“You feel love to be a phantom. What if that person never destroyed you? What if that spirit wasn’t deserving? Love? What is that?”).

So different from the hard present where the poet is forced by circumstance to put words down on paper in order to come to terms with what’s happened. “Decades later, when you run into an old ghost, you will feel frightened—fifteen with acne again. You’ll know.” It’s almost as though, in her busy mind, the poet were talking to her younger self.

It makes no sense. It terrifies your logic. What does logic have to do with phantoms? You intend to get to the bottom of love. You approach and ask the ghost to sit down, you smile, and then you say hello.

While in this poem the italicised words seem to come from the past, perhaps 20 years earlier, a time of discovery, of shame, of becoming, in ‘I want to be her’ they belong to a woman the poet sees outside her hotel room. In ‘Stranger at parties’ it’s the thoughts of a stranger. In ‘The galaxy of you’ it’s the poet herself in her writing present who’s talking in italics.

Italicised parts might be the thoughts of another person or of 15-year-old Christina, in other places they seem to be the conscience of the poet sitting alone in her room typing, and, for example in ‘Lacustrine’, it’s sometimes not clear who’s saying the italicised words. This multiplicity of voices is characteristic of Strigas’ method. We come close to a source where, we know, many voices combine in our minds as we go about our daily business. The postmodern additions – the references to poetry and writing – are aspects of the same faceted reality Strigas inhabits like a mage. Poetry is like a window opened into a room as we walk, thinking, remembering, hoping, on a quiet, dark street. We can hear the sound of Billy Joel leaking out of a lighted room while, in another part of the same house we’re passing by on soft feet, the flickering blue light of a TV screen forces out images we cannot see. We only know we recognise the tune playing. Is it for us that it plays?

It’s as though Strigas clothes her ideas in words. Clothes figure again in ‘Inheritance’. Here there’s a stain of another kind, but her relationship with money is complex and nuanced. Thankfully it’s not a matter of baldly rejecting, nor is it a covetous link tying the author to the subject, rather it’s an imaginative bond made up of complex feelings that we’re invited to survey as though at an auction where we can bid on their remains by promising our attention for a few moments. (Do I hear fifty?)

It’s in this realm of exchanges and of feelings, things that leak across the borders set up by agreed-upon referents, where we can deliberately tug garments for our intuition and take them off their hangers out of closets, perhaps put them on for a change – will the weather be too cold? is this style right for the occasion? – so that we might step out onto the broad expanse of existence manifest in the vibrant concurrence of consciousness and page. Digital reality a PDF more flexible by comparison to paper, able to be sent at the speed of light, faster than cathode rays spreading out of a bungalow on the dark street. Money isn’t everything

But if I turn it into a poem
it does sound lovelier

though Metaxa is a harsh word, its suggestive weight seeming to drag the poet down. Those memories possibly including ones where the girl was asked to wash glasses. It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to. The self-reflexive moment of poetry – the (re)lived experience, the past crumbling like broken bread – surges like a wave over the beach of the present. It’s a summer’s day and we’re again on a family outing

But real love bleeds in inks
with an old fountain pen

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Christina Strigas

From Avalanches in Poetry writings & art inspired by Leonard Cohen (2019) How Leonard Cohen Kept Evading Me by Christina Strigas

https://www.facebook.com/christinastrigasauthor/

https://www.instagram.com/c.strigas_sexyasspoet/?hl=en

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/christina-strigas

https://tinyletter.com/christinastrigas

Book Review: Love is Make-Believe by Riham Adly

(c) Riham Adly

A Review by Love is Make-Believe (Clarendon House Publications)

*Reviewed by Fevers of the Mind Reviewer Matthew da Silva* *further edits by David L O’Nan*

The barest of outlines allows the reader to enter through a doorway Adly creates with letters posted like street signs at the corner of each page. You guess at the beginning of each sentence and if you’re lucky you’ll have an image – an idea – by the time, withered like a willow tree by the loss of another few moments, you get to the end of the sentence you’re reading. Adly’s imagery is distilled and her metaphors speak loudly but the sense of each story is masked by a kind of silence we inhabit when we talk to family members.

We’re much more likely to say the truth in conversations with strangers, and most of the people reading Adly’s stories – short and pithy, ripe and ready – are going to be people who are unknown to her. This magic abides even when the ties that bind a person to their past – like the letter writer in ‘Blind Bat’s Song’ or the child protagonist of ‘Bubbles, Mermaids and Broccoli’ – stretch thin with yearning and regret.

The past seems to pursue Adly, so it’s no surprise to find family at the centre of the drama in some of her stories, but all – even the ones set in a New World of hopes and disappointments, dreams and remembering – fade like memories of past wrongs and merge into wishes for future happiness. The border between past and present, like that which lies like the sun between pleasure and pain, is porous and the things that move across the boundary have names that Adly knows. I was very impressed by the strength of her vision. Even when the traces of meaning fragment and blend back into the substrate of consciousness, images and ideas appearing and disappearing like motes of light shining like eidolons drifting ghostly on the wall of a deserted house you visit only at dusk, you sense that Adly knows what she’s doing. Even when you’re not sure of what’s happening, you feel that the author is in control.

Of course because each reader will bring their own memories and habits of mind to the task of reading the control is not total, though the impression I had while reading was of familiarity. It is easy to familiarize yourself to the struggles, surroundings as she writes despite living far from where I am. I get it. The imagery is put out and lets you into her world. I am there in her streets and in her rooms like a promise.

While her experience is always present in these stories I was relieved to find that there is freedom here for the reader to breathe. You’re not hemmed by blocky ideas but, instead, you’re tempted like a tourist outside a café she doesn’t even know is there. A human despite the difficulties is blessed because not only are there usually two words available to mark the same thing, but he or she can escape the clutches of immediacy and travel in imagined realms to a different place where feelings and joys echo in familiar hallways, where the sounds of a different sea crash on the shore, to where it’s still daylight.

This is a special type of excellence. This story is about you. All you need to do is go up the stairs, walk past the mural with its figures and its background of a beach and the sea, and sail away in a dish like a spy.

Info about: Love is Make-Believe is an upcoming flash fiction collection. A story less than a 1000 words. The story “How to tell a story from the heart” was published in Flash Frontier and was included in the Best Microfiction 2020.

From Riham:

The book is titled “Love is Make-Believe” and I’ve created six parts or sections all linked thematically.

First part is narrated by children be it actual children or adults suffering their parents that caused trauma some of it is cultural some is not.

Second part is about mothers and depression and how it effects their view point. Depression is due to lack of support or abandonment issues.

Third part is called “One way Love” women offering love without anything in return. In my culture emotions are of little value, romance is a myth. A woman is required to obey and please and in other cultures women are often judged or sexualized or misunderstood.

Fourth part is about women who suffered the wows of society and culture, it is no longer personal. I tackle issues like female genital mutilation still carried out to this day in Africa, also I talk about freedom of speech, wars, honor killings and more.

In the fifth part I call it “Monsters” it’s about Men and Women who have done monstrous things to each other in the name of love. Themes of Murder and incest are dominant here.

The sixth and last part is called “Magic” where stories also following the same general theme of the book take on a more surreal nature, magical realism, historical fiction and even sci Fi.

I’ve had six best of the net nominations two pushcart nominations and with a winning story in the “Best Microfiction 2020”

This book is a testament of pain and injustice that either I personally went through and that of my ancestors and contemporary sisters. It is the book of my marginalized voice.

A book review of “I’ll Pray When I’m Dying” by Stephen J. Golds (review by Matthew da Silva)

from Red Dog Press

reviewed by Matthew da Silva

The book’s hardboiled style lets you more vividly imagine the past in which the narrative is placed while simultaneously allowing the author to obscure the sometimes stark divide in Ben Hughes’s characterisation where his illness slips into view. It seems that sometimes Hughes is lucid and controlled – as when he’s working Frankie over – and at other times he’s consumed by panic and fear – as when he meets Joseph Kennedy (father of JFK) in the office of Chief Sullivan. But the hardboiled nature of the pose – all glaring edges and sharp angles – allow for this sort of contrast to be less obvious, or at least it matches it for drama.

And drama is what we all crave, whether it’s in a crime novel (as in the case of the book being reviewed currently) or a midday soap opera. Personally, I’m a big fan of ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ which I watch most afternoons at 4.30pm just before the evening news. Hardboiled an innovation of a time of change and progress, when the shuddering perverse realities created by unjust laws of an older, less progressive age came up against the morphing present with a smack like the sound of a fist on a streetwalker’s pretty face.

Dealing however with modern issues like racism and dementia, PTSD and corruption of office Golds mixes the past with the present in a curious but compulsively readable melange. As you progress you’re always checking yourself to try to understand the feelings that emerge, and you wonder if it’s cognitive dissonance that formulates the drama’s rich appeal. So, for example, when Ben talks with Li Yu in her room in China Town you feel sympathy for her and an equal quantity of concern for crooked Ben and you wonder if the pleasure you sense inside you as you contemplate the possibility of more violence means that you are a man like him even though you don’t suffer from PTSD and even though you could never shoot a man out of anger because you disliked the way he sniffled as you sat at a bar. In fact the idea of holding a gun fills you with horror. Yet you understand and, in that moment of clarity, are transported, as when you watch a disaster unfolding in the evening TV news.

Addressing modern concerns in the context of the past — a time 70 or 100 years distant in time — lets you feel pity, which, it seems, is the brother of contempt, and by examining your own conscience you’re able to feel an echo of pity also for yourself because, like the people depicted in the novel, you are human. The story has this redeeming quality, letting you feel sorry for yourself while feeling sorry for obviously flawed characters as they appear in the story. It’s cathartic. Though reading doesn’t make you drunk you can feel clean and new again for a while in the same way that the second glass of wine might give you a temporary high whereas the fifth will just sit heavy in your gut, though Ben Hughes, who carries a whisky flask around with him for comfort, might continue to feel a benefit past that point, the dullness anyone would feel from drinking a bottle of chardonnay precisely the thing he seeks when he tilts his head back to take a draught. That is if he ever tried drinking wine. I gave up alcohol two years ago and I haven’t read a novel like this for longer than that. Placing the story in Boston is also evocative as the links between England and Massachusetts are ingrained in popular culture as deeply as are the tropes of Dashiell Hammett. When I was young I read John Fante, whose tales of life in Los Angeles illuminated the darkness I experienced at that time in my long and eventful life, and Ben Hughes has a dream of relocating his life – such as it is – to that city, the allure of California and the West Coast entering Golds’ story also in Kennedy’s proposal to use Hughes for a social and business event in Salt Lake City so that the whole of the North American continent is alive in Gold’s breathless imagination. And we know what happened to Kennedy’s son.

A book review of “Push” by Sadie Maskery

a review by Matthew da Silva

These lovely poems reach out with straining hands to touch the infinite, to press between the pages of a book a moment in time, to capture forever a thought that might stray across the frontal cortex of any person’s racing mind. Or perhaps a lazy, resting mind, as when you’re surfing the internet eager for distraction. The attempt is usually successful, as in ‘404’, which invites us to see the failures of community as it exists online, a place of fear and foolishness where people resent connection before they find the fractured peace they secretly desire. In this experimental poem, Maskery alternates between a more conventional poetic diction and snatches of computer code, suggestive phrases (“HttpResponseMessage Get / (string connection))” that draw you into the authored, mechanical realm lying between everyday utterances written in cyberspace as part of a flame war held any morning of the week in Atlanta or Abu Dhabi. The internet “decays” but “I don’t exist without” it seems, the poet reflecting on the ephemeral by trying to nail down fleeting instants that disappear in the ether as soon as they come into stuttering existence.

A disconnect also exists in ‘Do not enter’, a monologue by a person meeting a visitor at the door. The invitation appears sincere although there is a sign on the door telling people to keep out. Why has the visitor come? It’s not clear. There are no clues as to how this person decided it was apposite to knock – though life is like this, isn’t it? – but what he or she hears should, perhaps, reassure. Questions are raised and some are answered but the sense of foreboding that rests once the poem ends suggests that something is amiss.

This dislocation is repeated in poem after poem, for example in ‘make me’, which is, again, about the internet. Here, in a few words, Maskery tries to understand – and to communicate to the reader – something about its allure, but while the outlines of debate are defined there exist by the end of the poem – which is not long – more questions than answers. What is virality? How does this rare exposure help us to become more completely ourselves? Or is that not the appeal? Perhaps the answer lies in the message of the previous poem, ‘Prayer’, which is addressed to “gods of the ephemera” so that “sins may be sold” (if they could be, we’d all be rich) and “let us devour” the body “sacred / scarred” that we worship.

I really enjoyed reading these digestible items, and the collection often veers off into the inexpressible, as in ‘i’m so sorry, it’s just’ where it’s never clear exactly what the narrator is talking about, just “one sweetness / one beauty” “residue / from its grind / smirching / the smell of small things” though “why / pretend all is well” in this world of destruction and release, of small things broken apart and devoured (looking back to ‘Prayer’) by anonymous crowds of people (looking back to ‘404’)?

Surprises lend their appeal to the chorus of sorrow Maskery unmasks, so in ‘Thread’ the message is thin but eloquent, a single phrase written down to look like a pair of threads – perhaps a strand of DNA encoding our identity – that sit upon the page like flags flying above a parapet on a windy day.

The waves of the lines are enticing and strange. In ‘Beginnings’ an uncommon enticement reveals the outlines of desire, a moment rendered in words like a synapse firing, “The first time we meet the shock / is there but small” and the poet goes on to lay out in miniature the universe of the mind that that instant unfurled. This is a masterpiece of expressive competence, a very strong poem that unearths worlds that are normally buried in the vast wildernesses of memory. As I read I started to recall things that had happened to me, a night when I was maybe 21, a day I went to a party in Double Bay, various times that happened in my life – so long ago – arose to conquer my attention in the flickering present where images combine with the pulse of the computer screen to reveal the mind’s frail existence in all its broken lightness and sorrow.

So the positive dwells in this collection of short poems – many are one page long, some are two pages long – alongside the negative (see especially ‘Networking’), the euphoric (see for example ‘Art’) with the base, the high with the low, the thing to be celebrated with the pain of despair. I was struck by the flexibility of Maskery’s evocative voice, its ability to accommodate a range of ideas and to give utterance to an array of different feelings. This is a memorable book.

Order here: https://www.erbacce-press.co.uk/sadie-maskery

3 poems from “Push” by Sadie Maskery “Lost Child” “Rearrangement” & “Once we were”

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Sadie Maskery

Poems about “Connections” by Sadie Maskery

A Book Review: Robin McNamara – Under A Mind’s Staircase

This is a review of Robin McNamara’s debut chapbook “Under a Mind’s Staircase” under The Hedgehog Poetry Press (c) 2021.

As I was reading Robin’s poems I first felt like this was a lost journey, a poet seeking answers. Diving into every emotion and trying to absorb them into words. To be in a lonely state of mind, a scared state of mind, a worried state of mind (religion), to take in the beauty of nature. To be in panic and seeking quick answers. I identified most with the imagery of this poet as they try to figure out love, lust, lost, what’s left, then death. I appreciate the influences expressed in the poems such as Sins of Soul & Soul of Dust inspired by T.S. Eliot. I am often inspired in my own writings with T.S. Eliot’s inklings left for us to read.

“Sins of Souls” is one of my favorites because it dives into the unknown whether you’re wants might be the lust that the world impulses you in. How you are made to feel ashamed to sin, when hidden. While everyone is behind the curtain mimicking the same sins with a ridicule.

Published poetry by Robin McNamara from “Under A Mind’s Staircase”

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Robin McNamara

The language in these poems I can deeply feel such as in “The Devil’s List” “Have the angels fled?” …. “The angels have fled” I often dive into this same interesting dialogue within poems that leaves questions and ultimately a realization, or an answer from the poet’s perspective, however this leaves the reader pondering if they truly have found the answer at the end, or are they still searching.

Life being so complex. Figuring out what is real, what is ideal, what is surreal, and what is just a feel. This is what this journey is trying to lead you through.

With eyes: observations of nature “Blackbird on the Hill”, “Tides and Seasons” “Apple Picking Season” “Dusked Evenings” “The Fold of the Seasons” this leads to observations, to the mind, what do these images conjure, how can you relate to what you see?

With the mind in static: “It’s Quite Mental, Really” a trip through moments of insanity. Everything that surrounds is surreal, nothing is real, what can I do? To make it real? What does loneliness cause a person to be?

Explore this journey of humanity and take in the beautiful words, relatability (if you’re empathic) and realize we are all hidden and we are also all in front of those curtains in display. Soul and all for the pickings and the observation.

https://robinmcpoet.com/ for Robin’s bookstore on his webpage.

https://amzn.to/3BUKxb4 for Amazon link (U.S.)