Review: Poetry from The Lady of the Pier by Effrosyni Moschoudi

Title: Poetry from The Lady of the Pier

Author: Effrosyni Moschoudi

Genre: Poetry, Romance

Self-Published

Year of Publication: 2015

Rating: 4/5 stars

Note: I purchased this book as a freebie. However, this aspect didn’t influence the review I wrote or the rating I gave this book.  In this review, you will find only my honest thoughts and opinions about the book I’ve read!

Though I read the entire Lady of the Pier trilogy back to back and I consider it one of the best stories I’ve read this year, I’m going to review the Poetry from The Lady of the Pier first to give you a flavour before reviewing each of the three books. In short, this small volume comprises of ten romantic poems, an excerpt from The Ebb and a bonus short story set in Sifnos Island.

Even though you can read the poems without picking up the trilogy, I think that they make more sense after discovering Laura and Sofia’s story. Because this is a poetry collection, I cannot review it in detail, but I can give you a sneak peek into the novel to make you understand the context in which these poems were written. In short, this paranormal romance revolves around two women coming from different time periods and different countries: Sophia lives in Greece in the late 80s while Laura lives in Brighton (UK) in the late 30s. One night after meeting a cheeky Brit named Danny, Sophia is visited in her dreams by a mysterious lady dressed in black who stands on a pier and recites verses. The poems Sophia hears in her sleep are linked to the important events in the woman’s life and the feelings these poems will stir inside you range from happiness and joy, to sadness, nostalgia, regret and despair; while the main themes are (lost) love and death.

In An Old Promise. Joanna, a posh  American widow travels to Sifnos after many years because there’s an old promise she has to keep. The first time she went to this majestic Greek island, Joanna was twenty-one and she fell in love with a young man, but they lost touch with each other and carried on with their lives. Will Joanna’s trip to Sifnos help her relive or mend the past she was so fond of? This s a story about memories, love and a second chance at happiness. The writing is good, the depictions of Athens and Sifnos are vivid and, if the poems from the fist part of the book broke your heart and made you feel emotional, this story will mend it and warm it with its beauty and an ending filled with hope. This story is also a metaphorical love letter to Greece, its beauty and the magic it casts upon those who visit and fall in love with it. The only two complaints I have with this short story are the fact that the story was a bit too sugary and that Costas was too emotional and a bit unrealistic as a male character.

Those were my thought on this short volume. Stay tuned for more reviews and other bookish content! I post new articles every Wednesday and Friday. Until then, happy reading everyone!

 

Social Media Book Tag

Social Media becomes more and more part of our everyday life whether we like it or not. Nowadays, it’s really hard to picture our lives without it or the Internet as a whole. A while, my friend Elena from eLitere.ro posted her answers for the Social Media Book Tag which combines two things I enjoy: social networks and books, which were made to go hand in hand in my world. Without further ado, here are my answers for this fun little book tag.

Twitter – Your favourite shortest book

Well, that’s a bit tricky because my favourite books are not so short, but I’m going to say La țigănci by Mircea Eliade, which is translated into English as With The Gypsy Girls. It’s a paranormal novella that has elements of magic realism and it’s basically the story of a poor piano teacher named Gavrilescu who lives a plain and unfulfilled artistic life, but deep inside he longs for adventure and he is drawn to a mysterious house where strange things happen and times flows differently. This is one of my favourite works of Romanian literature and I would recommend it to any bookworm out there because Eliade was a great writer.

Facebook – A book everybody pressured you into reading

Of all the recommendations I get from my family, friends and acquaintances, the book one of my mum’s friends insists that I should read is Isabel Allende’s The House of The Spirits. I would gladly read it if it weren’t for two reasons: I’m not very fond of family sagas in general and the second reason is that I read Zorro which is written by the same author and I didn’t like it because the story drags a lot and it was a painful read.

Tumblr – A book you read before it was cool

To be honest, I’m quite the opposite. I watch many booktubers, so I know what’s cool or trendy, but I prefer to go my own way and read a book because I’m interested in it, not because everyone else reads it. There are a few popular books I would like to try, but they aren’t on my top priority list for now. I own enough books to keep me entertained for the following years and I’ve signed up to some author newsletters to be noticed about their newest releases.

MySpace – A book you don’t remember whether you liked or not

I don’t think such a thing ever happened to me. I might forget the name of the characters or parts of the plot, but I usually remember if I read a book or not, even if I hated it.

Instagram – A book that was so beautiful you had to instagram it

I don’t have an Instagram account, but I like to look at other readers’ bookstagrams. For me, every book is beautiful in its own way, so I don’t have an answer for this one. However, I’m going to take photos of the books I own for my book reviews and other tags.

Youtube – A book you wish would be turned into a movie

I would like to see Lust, Money & Murder by Mike Wells turned into a blockbuster or into a TV/Netflix series because it’s an action-packed espionage thriller full of suspense, twists, criminals and a badass female Secret Service agent. What else can you ask for? Even the series has a resounding title begs to be printed on a movie poster or to appear in a movie trailer.

Goodreads – A book you recommend to everyone

Hmm. there are a few novels I love to death, but I’ll switch to poetry now and recommend The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks because his poems are spiritual, they make you question everything you did in life and you become aware that less is more. I know that this isn’t a book for everybody out there, but Rumi is my favourite poet of all time and it will be very difficult for anyone else to take his place.

Skype – A book with characters that you wish you could talk to instead of just reading about

Now this one is actually easy because I would like to meet any character from Effrosyni Moschoudi’s novels The Necklace of Goddess Athena and The Lady of the Pier which is actually a trilogy I’m currently reading.  I would like to meet and hang out with Phevos, Ksenia, Daphne or Manos because I’m obsessed with myths and Greek culture and civilisation. Plus, they are kind and hardworking youngsters from whom I have a lot to learn.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, like or share it with your friends and if you want to play along, feel free to leave a comment with your answers or if you already have an article or a video response, please leave the link to your blog or video below. I would be more than happy to take a look.

Review: Sappho by Bliss Carman

One Hundred Lyrics

Title: Sappho

Subtitle: One Hundred Lyrics

Author: Bliss Carman

Introduction by Charles G. D. Roberts

Genre: Poetry

First Published in 1904

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2011

Published by The King’s Classics

Rating: 5/5 stars

We all know that time makes us grow old, heals some of our wounds and helps us become wiser. Unfortunately, we are not the only ones who suffer because of time; Ancient texts do as well. Most of the Ancient texts — plays or poetry — were erased, burnt or lost because of wars, religious dogmatism or ignorance. This also happened with the majority of Sappho’s poems. However, a Canadian poet took the matter into his own hands and rewrote one hundred poems by adding them to the few existing Ancient fragments.

Sappho was a Greek poetess born in Lesbos and her poetry was well-known and greatly praised throughout antiquity. We hardly know anything precisely about her life because Ancient chronicles and scholars cannot decide upon the year of her birth or with whom she was contemporary. They estimated her year of birth somewhere between 630 and 612 BC and her death around 570 BC. According to the chronology inscribed on the Parian Marble, at some point in her life, Sappho was exiled to Sicily because of political tumult.

Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics is a book of poems written by the Canadian poet Bliss Carman, first published in 1904.  In the introduction to the 1907 edition, Charles G. D. Roberts says that the most plausible theory for the disappearance of Sappho’s poems was that they were burnt in Byzantium in 380 AD by Gregory Nazianzen, the Archbishop of Constantinople, who wanted his poems to be studied instead because they were more moral. Roberts praises Carman’s initiative to reconstruct Sappho’s poems with the help of the remaining fragments, saying that his task is based more on imagination and interpretation than on translation and paraphrasing. “Mr Carman’s method apparently has been to imagine each last lyric discovered, and then to translate it (…) accompanied by the fluidity and freedom of purely original work”. (Loc. 52)

The themes of these 100 poems are usually concerned with love, beauty, death, nature, divinity and time. The gods most invoked and praised in these poetic works are Aphrodite, Pan, Hermes and sometimes Poseidon. However, the persona doesn’t speak only to divinity, but most of the time to a lover. It’s a bit confusing to figure out who is the voice behind the persona because Carman reconstructed the poems trying to get under Sappho’s skin. Most of the time, Sappho loves or longs for the love of another woman, whether it is something platonic or passionate. My favourite poems were those about Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love.

I’m sure that Sappho’s original poems were much naughtier than those of Carman because the Greeks were not ashamed of anything physiologic or natural. On the other hand, Carman’s poems are beautiful and very profound; they are like a balm for your heart. For me, these reconstructed poems of Sappho are like strolling through an oleander garden on a starry night.

 

Review: Songs of Kabir by Rabindranath Tagore

Title: Songs of Kabir

Author Kabir

Genre: Poetry, Religion. Mysticism, Sufism, Spirituality

First Published in 1518

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2012

Publisher: Start Publishing LLC

Translator: Rabindranath Tagore

Introduction by Evelyn Underhill

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

For today’s second post, I’m going to review a poetry collection entitled Songs of Kabir, which is written by the Indian saint and mystic poet Kabir and it is translated into English by another famous Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore.

What I understood from Evelyn Underhill’s presentation of Kabir’s life and poems is that Kabir was the Muslim disciple of the Hindu ascetic Râmânanda, who wanted to reconcile the Islamic mysticism of the Persian poets Attar, Saadi, Jalaladin Rumi and Hafez with traditional Hinduism. Many aspects of Kabir’s life are unclear and contradictory, but what you need to know is that he is recognised as a saint, both by the Sufis and the Hindus, the two beliefs that strongly influence his poetic work. However, some scholars say that Kabir’s poems also have traces of Jewish and Hellenistic Christian thought, but not everyone agrees with this theory, even though there are poems which reminded me of the Biblical Song of Solomon, with its famous metaphor of the bride and the Bridegroom.

According to both Hindu and Islamic ecclesiastical authorities, “Kabir was plainly a heretic, and his frank dislikes of all institutional religion, all external observance (…) completed, so far as ecclesiastical opinion was concerned, his reputation as a dangerous man” (Loc.66-67). Perhaps Kabir was seen as a heretic because he thought that between the soul and God intermediaries like priests, rituals or temples were unnecessary substitutes for the real faith. Therefore, the religion he believed in was more accessible to the poor than to the sages who were educated in the spirit of Islam or Hinduism.

Because of this type of direct bond with God, Kabir was constantly persecuted by religious authorities. Legend has it that Brahmans sent a courtesan to tempt Kabir, but she ended up a convert like Mary Magdalene “by her sudden encounter with the initiate of a higher love”. (Loc. 78). In another episode of his life, Kabir was banished from his hometown by Emperor Sikandar Lodi, in order to maintain the peace in Benares.

Kabir’s poems are truly fascinating because they form an interesting combination between Sufism and Hinduism. In this poetry collection you will find the well-known  mystic metaphors depicting the transcendental bond between the mystic and God (the guru and the disciple, the Bridegroom and the bride, the Lord and the slave), the ecstasy or the longing for the presence of the Divine Teacher, Comrade or Fakir to whose feet the lover bows obediently.

But here the Lord is Brahma, who reveals Himself through Unstruck Music of the Universe, which can be heard only by illuminated mystics like Kabir, who detached himself from his ego, in order to let Love fill his heart. He found the Truth and realised that both material and spiritual world are as one because God is within everything and everything is within God. Therefore, Kabir’s Union with the Supreme Spirit is made through Love and not through Knowledge. As well as in Rumi’s poems, we find the recurrent theme of the ecstatic dance, but here, instead of the Whirling Dervishes, we have the Eternal Swing of the Universe which is “held by the cords of love” (Loc.161).

The poems are written in vernacular Hindi rather than in the literary tongue of the ecclesiastical class, they contain simple metaphors and symbols drawn from everyday life (e.g. the bird, the pilgrim, the weaver). As in the Persian poets’ mystic works, we find that Kabir’s name is placed towards the end of the poems, which symbolises a kind of signature of the poet in Medieval Middle-Eastern poetry, a period when copyright laws weren’t invented yet.

I found a few editing mistakes here and there, but they don’t alter the reading and comprehension of the text very much. I hope that you enjoyed my review for the Songs of Kabir. For more book reviews and other literary and non-literary topics, don’t forget to like my facebook page or subscribe to the newsletter. Until next time!

Review: The Essential Rumi by Jalaladin Rumi and Coleman Barks

Title: The Essential Rumi

Author: Jalaladdin Rumi

Genre: Poetry, Religion. Mysticism, Sufism, Spirituality

First Published in 1995

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2004

Publisher: HarperCollins

Translator: Coleman Barks

Rating: 5/5 stars

For today’s review, I’m going to write about a mystic Persian poet I came across on Amazon, whose works are still read, sung and frequently quoted. Jalaladdin Muhammad Rumi was a Persian poet and Sufi mystic born in Balkh, modern day Afghanistan. During the Mongol Invasion, he was forced to flee with his family to Konya, in central Turkey. It was a peaceful and blooming cultural city, where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in harmony.

Besides his father’s and other Sufi poets’ theological and mystic writings, Rumi’s poems and other works were strongly influenced by Shams of Tabriz, a wandering dervish who became Rumi’s spiritual guide and through whom he achieved a deeper level of love for God. “They spent months together without any human needs, transported into a region of pure conversation” (Loc. 419). Rumi and Shams’ friendship stirred jealousy among the Persian teacher’s disciples and family, forcing Shams to disappear for a while from Konya.

During this time, Rumi started to write mystic poems or as Annemarie Schimmel puts it: “He turned into a poet, began to listen to music, and sang, whirling around, hour after hour” (Loc. 422). The second time Rumi and Shams met, the two men fell at each other’s feet that “no one knew who was lover and who the beloved” (Loc.424) – the relationship between the lover and the Beloved became a recurrent theme in Rumi’s poems. However, the reencounter didn’t last long, because Shams was called outside on a December night and never returned. His disappearance remains a mystery; he might have been murdered by a disciple with one of Rumi’s sons’ consent. Rumi’s desperate and useless search for Shams and his longing for his friend were materialised in a collection of odes (ghazals) and quatrains (rubaiyat) entitled Diwan-e Shams-e Tabriz /The Works of Shams of Tabriz.

The mystic poet was a well-known and respected spiritual leader of his time (he took the name of Mawlana or Our Master) because he founded the Mevlevi order or the Whirling Dervishes, whose unique ceremonies are called Sama. Through music and ecstatic dance, the Sufis ascend the mystic stages, which lead to their complete union with God. One of Rumi’s most important works is the Mathnawi, a vast poetic creation comprised of six books (26.000 verses), where the master teaches the disciples Sufi morals through mystic poetry and folk tales. The most remarkable thing about this lengthy work is that Rumi didn’t write it with his own hand, but he recited it continuously during the weeks or even months of ecstatic trance and it was written down by his scribe, Husam Chelebi.

The Essential Rumi is Coleman Barks’ selective translation from Rumi’s works, because “Rumi’s creativity was a continuous fountaining from beyond forms and the mind” (Loc. 444) and the twenty-eight divisions of the book are fluid and playful, as Barks himself writes. However, each section contains a Sufi symbol or poetic motif (the wine, desire-body, the sheikh, the turn etc.) and a few explanations before the series of poems begins. These literary creations contain Sufi wisdom and quotes from the Qur’an, which are interweaved with tales and fables, whose purpose is to teach the reader how harmful bodily desires and instincts (the animal-soul or the metaphor of the donkey) are and how important is the annihilation of the ego (one’s identity/personality must be dissolved) in order to become one with God.

The poems about instincts and desires are pretty graphic and their purpose is to show the ridiculous situations and wrongdoings caused by human lust, greed, envy or pride. However, my favourite part of this volume is the variety of metaphors about the relationship between soul, body and God. If the body is a donkey, God is the King or the Caliph, the Friend or Beloved to whom the lover must ascend to unite with Him, the flame through which the Sufi is cooked like a clay pot and so on.

Rumi uses biblical figures that appear in the Qur’an: Adam, Joseph, Moses and Jesus. King Solomon is also a metaphor for God, Queen of Sheba is the soul, but she doesn’t want to come to the king’s court without her impressive throne (the body). Jesus also appears in some poems, where He rides a donkey, “how the rational intellect/ should control the animal-soul./Let your spirit be strong like Jesus” (Loc. 3464). Though the relationship between the lover and the Beloved is spiritual, that doesn’t mean it is not intense or sensual. To exemplify, I’m going to recommend a video, in which many well-known people (including Madonna, Demi Moore, Deepak Chopra and Coleman Barks) read Rumi’s poems and the experience is enhanced by amazing music with Middle-Eastern inflexions.

Overall, mystic poetry wasn’t that hard to read, because Coleman Barks translated Rumi’s works into plain and colloquial English. The verses don’t have rhymes and the editorial explanations are like that well-trained guide that doesn’t let you get lost in the Persian poet’s divine wisdom. This is a book that makes you meditate about your soul and the nourishment it needs, especially in a materialistic world like ours. Also, his poems inspire you to appreciate more your family, friends and the small things that make your life beautiful.