this poem is from Christina’s new book “For all the Lonely Hearts Being Pulled Out of the Ground” published by Free Lines Press, 2022
a bouquet of black
and white flowers
stuck in my throat
drawn from your
I am trying to
it has a way of
my bouquet with
more of what I see
my rhymes live
I don't hate, I'm
I want to stop
but I have a
I cry too much
too many days of
I get out of bed
but I have not
written in months.
the link to purchase Christina's new book is below
From a bouquet of black and white flowers to times when the mind can barely hold on to images, this collection looks at all the love-exit signs and refuses to escape. These poems tell stories; about love and intimacy, growth, Greek recipes, heartbreak, family, coffee, wine, spirituality and more. They capture the ethereal that is in our grasp and yet far from reach, as time moves from the present to the past to the enigmatic.
Wolfpack Contributor: Christina StrigasA Poetry Showcase for Christina Strigas -new poetry & republished poetry
Christina Strigas is an author and poet, raised by Greek immigrants, who has written five poetry books. Her poetry book Love & Vodka was featured by CBC Books in, “Your Ultimate Canadian Poetry List: 68 Poetry Collections Recommended by you.” Her poetry book, Love & Metaxa, has garnered positive reviews, including Pank Magazine. Her poem, “Dead Wife” was nominated for best of the net 2020. Her latest poetry book, for all the lonely hearts being pulled out of the ground, is published by Free Lines Press, a French indie press that publishes experimental poetry. Strigas has also published two novels with The Wild Rose Press.
Strigas’s poems have appeared in Montreal Writes, Feminine Collective, Neon Mariposa Magazine, Pink Plastic House Journal, BlazeVOX, Thimble Lit Magazine, The Temz Review, and Coffin Bell Journal.
She is a full-time public school teacher and a part-time course lecturer for McGill University.
In her spare time, Christina enjoys foreign cinema, reading the classics, and cooking traditional Greek recipes that have been handed down from her grandmother.
There is a revolution
in my dark mind.
A diverse population of women
chanting about transforming
waving flags and drinking Dom Perignon
lying about their age
surrendering to Botox and lip injections
into an advanced age of technology
where dandelions stop growing
where wildflowers become condos
swim across concrete walls
open up your own bank account
you can’t rely on the past
washing machines stop listening to you
detergents no longer do their job.
men named Alexander never stay
Perhaps you are more comfortable
with all the shades drawn in the middle of the day.
Taking shots of vodka behind modern blinds
the blogs want sameness
with a modern feminism
the dictionary no longer supports
burn the books
forget your library membership
fall in love with your medicine
stop texting your ex-lover to save you
your womanhood is always on the verge
of new breakdowns.
You can make it real
but none of it is a poem,
I have telepathic eyes
I can see
how it's a war
A future where men
Still make more money
More poetry books
More doctoral positions
More artificial intelligence
A grave full of books
Dead weeds where trees
Were touched by your sisters
The only question left to ponder
How do I hide my greys?
Do i go blonder or do I dare
Become ash red?
my eyes swollen from crying
my heart slashed from denying
all of my doings and undoings,
never enough for any man.
Love is not important
in this poem’s recipe.
I never want to go back to cream and sugar.
be authentically me
raw and naturally bitter
dark and full of desire
addictive and lively potent
I’m alone in some one room apartment,
to be staring at my beige walls
As far from love as possible,
with a new bank account.
no borrowed money and
staring at my purple rain album
feeling love and freedom
like a solved crossword puzzle.
How long can one live
with dread in the pit of one’s stomach?
Our hopes are constantly
filled with empty alcohol glasses.
How many masks can one own?
One face for every event
a tight red dress and amber lipstick
Black leather pants and heavy eyeliner.
Ripped jeans and rock t-shirt
so many sides to this story.
I move from coffee to red wine,
eat a bit of this and that,
just to sustain
type all hours of the night,
day, mid-day, forget to pay my bills.
but I write,
oh, how the words spring forth like April tulips—
oh, how the lines burst forth like weeds between cracks
each poem a different hue of spring
in the middle of winter,
a snowflake, melting before as it touches the ground.
Weather and mornings have me tapping away
writing fluid lines until the sky turns orange
crossing and adding words with my HB pencil
shutting and closing old dictionaries.
My daily start of black coffee, silence,
lies and truths combined
My beige walls need a new paint
I can’t decide between earth tone or van Gogh blue
and empty coffee cups
in the dishrack—
But I do know
home is where words go
that never die.
Brothel of Poets
I’m as fragile as a piece of crumpled paper
as tough as an outdated hard book cover.
I have been day, afternoon, and night drinking again
finally finished two wine bottles now
hid them in the recycling bin.
I’m talking to my poet friends
about how selling your mental illness
and body shame is a new foundation of lies
of selling poetry books.
Whatever happened to raw talent?
How some poets think they can claim
words as their own
and no one can use them again?
I was never an ugly or pretty princess
I bought my own shoes
listened to music before it was popular
cried day and night to get my life back.
I read Sexton in the middle of the day
awake and alert at all the bus stops.
I heard that people like to break you
before they love you.
I heard that love bombing is a thing now.
I never knew love until you took me
under the Montreal moon.
I gave you myself
either way, you took me
like an unwrapped gift
at least you thanked me
for being your slut.
You’re always creeping into my poems.
The more I stay away from your lovely lettering,
The better I write
or so I think
It is the despised loneliness
the sipping of you until the glass
needs no washing
my lips licking you
I wait for you like a mother
waits for her child to sleep
so she can smoke a cigarette
am I a good mother?
I listen to you pour, I watch your
patience, tempting me
anticipation is fiery between us
a wicked black love
I know how this suffering flows,
It becomes shiny glassware,
Wake Up to Morrissey
I eat up their shovelled words,
ringworms in my stomach.
My sin is full of fungal infection
I stretched my legs too far—
my arms shrunk
my brain fell prisoner to cells
of meds and beds for the outlaws
sinners of generation X.
It got so pitch black that night
the ominous night of unwanted hell
we thought we were kid smart
to outrun the hidden world
on an empty tank of gas
yet we got our quick bang.
I still eat you up and cough you out
I have feminine power in my body.
Proof of your existence on my ironed clothes
get it right, predict the future
with the guts you deny;
I ate you
back to a dead life.
I’m used to him now
speaking to him on a daily basis
his songs, a morning call.
It’s nice to say kalimera Baba
to the open suburban sky,
in his house
one last summer.
The summer before the end
of a lifetime of gardening,
building kitchens, DIY tiles,
creating new childhood bedrooms,
parties for every occasion:
holidays, birthdays, name days;
Everyone is sleeping,
except me and the old clock.
I tap, tap, tap
He ticks, tocks, ticks.
our own beat
of forty-two-year memories.
It was 1976, the drive felt longer—
everything moved slower then.
You were always in it;
running around not being found
getting lost and no one looking.
The old Buick was long,
fitting all three of us.
In the front, no seatbelts;
three in the back—
Pappou, Yiayia, my brother.
A family of six,
We made codfish
with fresh garden herbs;
mint, parsley, celery, dill
I chopped them up, sprinkled
their love, crunching on the stems,
I was supposed to discard.
added water, oil and tomato sauce.
I’m not a prisoner here,
I like it.
I am sleeping too long
chilling with no motherly guilt,
cooking Greek meals
and lemon meringue desserts
on my summer vacation
of peach memories
with whoever is left
to kiss goodnight,
and drink hot coffee
in the humid mornings
without rushing, to work
to teach, to prepare.
I tap, tap, tap,
he ticks, tocks, tocks—
This is how time traps writers.
This is how time traps grief,
This is how we create poetry.
How Deep Inside a Gun Are You?
It is mostly the way you come at me
treat me so differently up close
pretend that the clothes I’m wearing
I was as poor as you
as rich in feeling like you
as lost in spirit as you.
I guessed you played with life
as players do.
Manipulations are over
mind games are dead
mothers are older
children are taking over
that love you are holding onto
is growing weeds—
you think that seconds mean worlds
that cutting up my sanity
is a game.
Perhaps you drowned once
I never did
I keep floating
existing in this joke.
Open your mouth
speak, don’t fire. At A Party
At a party with a priest
I used to smoke outside with
At the hospital where we worked
At a time when smoking rooms existed
When smoking was not bad for your image
At a party with people I don’t know
Pretending I remember
How we talked back then
How we loved less
At a party trying not to slur
Or flirt with the wrong man
Remembering a time
I wanted to forget
It was the tragic old ladies
With pink lipstick
And peach laugh lines
Who asked me to tie back
Their hair with silk fuchsia ribbons
When I was there to clean floors
Wipe dusty tables
How did I end up reading passages
From an old book?
Or talk to them about nonsense
To feel someone cared
It was the empty beds
Cleaning them and wondering
What death meant at all
How it came and went
And I was twenty
Wondering if I should break up
With my boyfriend
Go to Peru
Or cry for an old lady I barely knew.
At a party
Listening to Taylor Swift
And loving her more than I should.
I Wrote Nothing For Daysoriginally published in Rhythm N Bones Lit Issue 6 : Love
Trying to find emptiness
in a tall glass of midnight madness.
My thoughts on the slow, dark time
of your words.
Open up your closed book
eat the crumbs of cake off my hand.
I fed the wrong man
old tattered thoughts
in ancient chains
while I sunk in mythological mud
up to my ankles
washed your fake love
with aloe and coconut
but your European veins and musky scent
are alive on my skin
like birth marks and moles
no matter how hard I try to rub you off
no one can see your penetrating marks.
Aren't We All Monstersoriginally published in Dark Marrow (Rhythm & Bones Lit offshoot mag Issue 2 Survivor
Monsters are the loneliest creatures...
We're not all under your bed
or in your head.
we're all looking at you
straight in the empty eye,
in your mirror
in your head,
lift the covers or just stop checking.
You still love her,
never forget your tiny feet.
One enemy is enough.
Go ahead -
Call her to tell her
you think about her every day,
then go back to hating her.
Conversations with the Deadoriginally published in Dark Marrow (Rhythm & Bones Lit offshoot mag Issue 2 Survivor
Never followed Dad's advice.
Wish I did now.
In '89 thought his words archaic,
In 2017 I'd say he was
Pretty damn smart.
My daughter will roll her eyes,
One day remember ancient adages
Maybe in 2050-
Finally agree, nod her intelligent head
And remember this like me.
This is hindsight:
The unanswered phone.
Black Bell phone on the kitchen counter,
ringing endlessly, going to voicemail
no one checking again.
I can hear his voice from the dead-
it's rough, yet gentle
I press play.
I thought you were home. I hate these damn machines.
His broken English sounding perfect to my ears.
This is the cycle;
My mental tangerine peels,
my form of existential awareness
an endless study of the silenced voice
playing back recordings to remember
Cannot talk back.
Wolfpack Contributor: Christina StrigasA Book Review of “Love and Metaxa” by Christina StrigasA Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Christina StrigasFrom Avalanches in Poetry writings & art inspired by Leonard Cohen (2019) How Leonard Cohen Kept Evading Me by Christina Strigas
Christina Strigas links:
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
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Christina: Writing has always been my go-to. It all started with journal writing in high school, which turned into writing poems. During one particular English exam, the teacher asked us to read a poem and analyze it. I must have finished in record time and felt so mindful writing down my interpretation. After class, everyone was saying, “What was that poem about, man?” I listened to everyone complain, and that’s when I realized that I was different; that’s when I realized I understood this poetic language better than my friends and classmates. Suddenly, my friends were making requests for poems, and I wrote poems every day during class. Can you write a poem about my boyfriend?I just broke up with my boyfriend? Can you write me a poem I can give him? Friends and acquaintances would give me scenarios, and I would recreate their love into a heartbreaking poem. If I would look back at those poems now, I may have a few somewhere in an old shoebox in the garage, and I would probably gag at how infantile and cliché they were, but at the same time, they were the poems that started this love affair with words so I can’t be too tough on myself. What kind of weird gift was this? Did I think to myself? This knack for writing poems for strangers. I wrote so many poems and then typed them out. During typing class, I recopied most of Jim Morrison’s poems for the fun of it. I suppose he was the first poet I adored. Listening to those albums, his poetry readings, and reading his lyrics changed my life. They made me see the world differently. It was a portal into the sky that a select few could grasp. Once I started college and discovered the vast aisles a library contained, I spent hours recopying poems onto lined paper. I sat on the floor under the Poetry section and knew the books off by heart. I recopied Wordsworth, T.S. Eliot, Shakespeare, Shelley, Virginia Woolf, on and on…
Then one day, nineteen-year-old me walked into a second-hand book store across from my university. I picked up The Selected Poems of Anne Sexton for a couple of bucks and fell in love with her writing style. Her poetry awakened something in me. Her poetry book is always close by me at any moment.
I started a blog in my thirties and started to share my poems online, which also helped me get out of my shell and share my work and ideas.
Christina: Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, and T.S. Eliot are poets that keep influencing me. Margaret Atwood is a goddess of writing. She keeps astounding me with her novels and poetry books. Atwood is the G.O.A.T. She can weave stories like a magician. She can write poems that clench your guts. Hers is the type of writing that keeps me grounded and makes me strive to achieve better daily.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing?
Christina: I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. My parents were hard-working Greek immigrants who came to Canada, struggled with the two languages and built a life here. I grew up in the city and moved to the suburbs when I was in elementary school. Living in the suburbs kept me focused on school and reading, but I have always been a free spirit and wild at heart. The city was full of life; we stayed up late; played hide-and-seek in the Montreal alleys with cousins and neighbours, and created fond memories that make me nostalgic. Moving to the suburbs opened up a whole new world for me; friends from other cultures and the abundance of sky and land to ride my bike and play outdoors without fear. I loved reading outdoors under the trees in my backyard for hours. I learned to enjoy the moments and breathe. It was a twenty-minute drive to Montreal; this made life always exciting. I studied English Literature at Concordia University, worked as a barmaid in Old Montreal, and taught adults part-time until I finished my degree. I learned so much about humanity by being a bartender at my boyfriend’s pub and living the nightlife. We had live bands nightly at the pub, talked to all kinds of people from all walks of life, stayed up late until the sun came up, and lived every minute. My environment, my city, my culture have always played a role in my writing. My novel’s locations are in Montreal. My poetry book, especially my latest, Love &Metaxa, includes poems about the city, life, family, love, death, being Greek, being raised in a Greek household and relationships with loved ones. Also, what it means to be a mother, daughter, wife, lover, and granddaughter coming from an immigrant family.
Here is a photo of some of my journals on my bookshelf in my writing room.
Q4: Have any travels away from home influence your work?
Christina: My family trips to Greece evoke memories that sometimes turn into poetry. In my novels, I like to research cities. In my novel Crush, I wanted it to be in St-Tropez. I had never travelled there, but I have researched it intensely. Half of the novel’s location was in Montreal the other half was in St-Tropez. The familiarity of my city makes it easy for me to write. Travelling to different countries opens up my creativity and the artist in me.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Christina: I have been writing since high school, but when I was thirty-nine years old, I published my first novel. It’s a long story how that happened, but essentially, I met a spiritual counsellor who did a tarot reading for me and told me that she saw me signing and writing books. Up until then, it all felt as if I would keep my writing in my drawers, but after that pivotal moment, I felt as if I had more stories inside me. I partnered with her to start chronicling her stories and wrote three books about her life through a first-person narrative. I wrote those three books over a couple of years, but writing them made me realize that I can be a writer and publish my work. Another pivotal moment was in 2015 when my niece took my phone and opened up an Instagram account to share my poetry. At the time, I did not realize that her action would lead me to make connections and publish four poetry books.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Christina: If only I knew how to relax; drinking coffee in the morning during the summer when I am off of work and catching up on all my writing projects is my way of relaxing. Oh, wait, did you say relax? I like to meditate, take long walks with my dog, read books, listen to music, and enjoy moments with family and friends. The only time I can truly relax is when I am on a beach, preferably in Greece, and reading books with no concept of time. I love spending time with my family and reconnecting. My recent hobby is painting. I am painting acrylic on canvas using various techniques/ My writing room has become a painting studio in one corner.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Christina: I recently self-published Love & Metaxa, my latest poetry book. Now, I am working on a poetry book with Alexandra Meehan and Jacquie Prebich. I have another poetry book that I need to edit, and I have a novel that I have been working on for a couple of years now. As you can see, I can’t relax. My mind is constantly on fire.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
Christina: My favorite poems are “All My Pretty Ones,” “ The Double Image,” “Us,” by Anne Sexton, but I honestly can’t pick a favorite. I would also include“Daddy,” by Sylvia Plath, and “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. Shakespeare also changed my life once I read the love sonnets. Let me add Pablo Neruda for the beauty of language he uses to describe love.
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Christina: Alexandra Meehan has helped me the most with my writing. She is an excellent editor. Alexandra Meehan edited my poetry book, Love & Metaxa, but beyond her editing expertise, she and I are poetic soul mates. We can discuss and analyze poems and poetry for hours. She reads my poems and can dissect them or tell me how to improve them. Some of my poems are so long, once I get into my stream of consciousness, and Alexandra can chop up poems and tell me that I have two poems written instead of one. When Alexandra Meehan began editing my poems a few years ago, I finally realized how much I needed to improve my writing and become a better poet. She has made me see that poetry is all about showing and not telling. I owe her a debt of gratitude for her editing skills and her friendship.