The ceaseless wanderings of a recalcitrant self
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 poems of the first part mark an act of transubstantiation in which one’s existence is turned inside out, transcending itself and identity is filtered through alterity in a succession of anti-war poems dealing with the politics and elections of the USA and with international affairs. The author passes severe judgement on political disunity, the striking incapacity for decision-making, on our body and soul growing fat, lazy and losing all sense of criticism, on our stupefied, inebriated and paralyzed citizenship. The poetry of Manolis is a valid, cogent and timely exhortation, a perennial admonition endeavoring to disclose the hidden and mysterious dynamics of consciousness and the underlying metaphorical architecture of our lives in a new hermeneutical framework of poetic truth. The flow of words is set into motion by the inexorable criticism of the author, by his scathing irony and withering sarcasm. One of the most laudable characteristics of this poetry is the intermediate view that it represents in the incessant oscillation between identity and alterity.
The poet is concerned with reality in general and with intersubjective reality in particular. Openness and straightforwardness are encoded in the essence of this poetry and the immutable horizon of vigorous presence, experience and volitional activity is accentuated as a constitutive moment of existence. The experience of being an active participant of the events unfolding around us, moreover, of being a highly intensive critical presence shaping the world is not only reassuring but it also awakes our feeling of responsibility as we gradually become part of this poetic universe which serves to accommodate our impressions of the radical alterity of the other, our fears and hopes and our understanding of human identity. This can pave the way for our dialogical activity which is essential in the construction of our own narrative of the ego-world axis and of our interpretative matrix in which we constantly try to place and analyze the events of the external world, the famines and wars, the violence, the defenselessness and the privation that we see on a daily basis.
The succession of the trenchant images of suffering, pain, sorrow and agony is deeply personal, the genuine concern of the poet is moving: each poem is a state of affairs and what is more, a bead on a rosary told for the victims of violence, exclusion and discrimination. Bombs, missiles, explosions, corpses, great power politics, weapons and defense contractors in a mad world… The poems of the first chapter constitute the etching of the poet’s foregoing investigation into the horrors of modern-day existence. However introversive and rooted in a profound knowledge of the self these texts are, they are far from the common self-absorption of many poetic trends: the interference of the lyrical self is inconsiderable and it is instrumental in giving occasion to an inspection into the realm of human nature and inherent values.
A fusion of themes and horizons characterize the poems of the second part of the book. Reminiscence, eroticism, abstraction, philosophy, a chain of thoughts revolving around existential meditation and the distillation of life condensed in literary essence: the poetic world of Manolis is continually in the process of taking shape and being formed. This ceaseless becoming is the very essence of his intellectual and artistic universe. When it comes to these texts, to engage in hermeneutics is to engage in a reflection of openness and dialogue. The fragmented narrative serves the enlargement of the horizon of our experiences by an immersion in the inexhaustibly divergent possibilities of alternative subjectivity. Striving for understanding, the lyrical I is incarnated in a sequence of thoughts, impressions and sensations, in a multiplicity of self-representations, levelling the boundaries of the self-enclosed subject to the ground. The poetic subject appears as the focal point of the diverse shades and nuances of the inherent alterity of all experience, as the convergent lens splitting and shattering fixed categories, activating and mobilizing our most heterogeneous and multi-colored concepts and experiences of life and existence. As an extension of the experience of alterity to textual creation, the poet offers us his many-worlds interpretations of parallel lives, simultaneous events and synchronous superpositions by entering into the spirit and ideas of others and by projecting us into their existence. Thereby, the poet, after addressing the self-other, identity-alterity relationship as a socio-political concern, invites us to transcend the egological dimensions of the self. The poetic efficacy attributing autonomy and postulating self-sufficiency as the normative structure of the subject is replaced by the necessity of the other’s perspective and the engagement in an open dialectic of experience. The relentless candor and openness of the poet manifest themselves in the interlocking patterns of an apparently autofictitious chain of images, of an almost limitless inventory of sensations and impressions closely related to the realms of lived experience of everyday existence and to the phenomenological and ontological readings of feelings, life events and thoughts.
The short, epigrammatic dialogues of the third section of the book offer a sternly detailed and coldly realistic portrayal of the dynamics of estrangement and disaffection of the relationship of an elderly couple. The duplicity of the narrative is constituted by the disparate strategies of self-representation: the distinct perspectives coexist without being engaged in interaction, without interpenetrating and influencing each other. The poetic text operates in this part of the book as a divergent lens displaying, exhibiting the major discrepancies and splits in these two radically dissimilar inner structures of experience and existence. Sharing life, in this case, doesn’t mean a dialectical, bilateral relationship: on the contrary, it is only a setting for the plain scheme of communication divested of its essence, of the essential alterity and openness of shared experience. These series of pseudo-encounters deprive the subjects of any vertical dimension, compelling them to float in indeterminacy and to abandon all hope of a communion in which the encounter could transform the innermost realms of their existence. The lack of reciprocity manifests itself in the bifurcate, juxtaposed phrases and paragraphs, in the tessellated fugue-structure of non-alignment, phase-displacement and avoidance. The thoughts disengage and come apart as two people fade into the delusive intimacy of isolation: their means to express and articulate the nuances of their personality and inner self are incompatible, the schemata of their behavior reflect the distance between their authentic selves. By asserting their identities in their monologic and monolithic fragments of the universe, they tacitly accept the increasing alienation and the correlative tensions. The communion of wife and husband has lost even its seeming and fictitious feeling of togetherness, often disguised in an illusory narrative secrecy. In the final sequence of poems, Manolis reveals the cleavages and ruptures of a relationship in all honesty, with unrelenting directness. In fact, the apparent tranquillity and respite dissimulate an alarming defensiveness and a regressive inner fear which make it impossible to recognize and accept the growing gap and anxiety and the reinforcement of incongruence and decomposition of the self.
This lively, alert, highly critical, cynical, daring and often intrepid portrait of our age, this unyielding reckoning offers us a large-scale panorama filtered through the subjectivity of the poet which is the strategy of Manolis to embrace, appropriate and refigure reality. The vividness of his imagery and the richness of the moments of lived experience and enacted narratives make our journey into the inextricable intertwining of his inner world not only memorable but pleasurable as well. The poetry of Manolis confirms the postulation not only of the primacy of being, but of being as action and involvement. The Medusa Glance is a hermeneutical sign-post
tracing an ascending curve of psychological and philosophical analysis, congruent with the genuineness of the poet, which gives an account of his interpretations of our confrontations with the incomprehensibility of life, of the unfathomable fullness of experience, of the often controversial and impenetrable complexities and mysteries of ipseity and alterity, of conceptual and carnal intersubjectivity and of the mental space opened up for a critique of our deeply rooted ideological constructions and insincerities by the implacable openness and directness of this poetry.
Károly Sándor Pallai, PhD,
researcher, translator, poet