Friday, September 4, 2009

Magdalene and the Mermaids by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

Book Blurb:

At the heart of this comprehensive collection lies the Biblical character of Mary Magdalene whose presence is prominent in many of the poems and who haunts those which are, ostensibly, departures from the subject matter that dominates. However, departure and digression are not the hallmarks of this work and each piece of writing represents a different incursion into the topic from angles and perspectives that are startling, original and engaging. By adopting an overarching motif, the author is able to align more personal topics and themes with the main focus, at times appearing to move into territory not evidently covered by the title but always providing the vital connection somewhere in this sequence of compositions.

Title: Magdalene and the Mermaids
Author: Elizabeth Kate Switaj
ISBN: 9780979847066
Publisher: Paper Kite Press/2009
Pages: 56

As most of you know, I write poetry. That is one major factor, which leads me to read poetry. I read all kinds of poetry, classics, modern etc etc. Lately I have been exploring contemporary poetry. When I saw this poetry book showcased on various blogs, I requested a copy from the author and she was kind enough to send me one. It is a thin book of 56 pages.

One can't read poetry at one go as all images merge and one doesn't really enjoy it that much. Despite the thinness, it took me a while to finish this book. And I was really glad that I read it. As the blurb says, it does refer to Magdalene, the biblical character but that is not the only element here. In most of the poems, it is the metaphor of mermaid that speaks to us. Switaj has made the mermaid come alive for us. Her feelings, emotions pour forth. We can see the intense love, rejection, despair, angst and deep sadness. Yet there is hope, despite the sign of dejection.

In To Siren In Museum, we can see her resignation to herer plight after her lover left her:

I gather shelves of ancient clays
around my empty hours
Repeat their names
lekthos, oil flask
kantharos, drinking cup with two high handles
skyphoid pyxis, cosmetic box

and skip ages of painted warriers
who might take my tale
myself into their epic arcs

My story is nothing
left on some rock
You, then, surprise me
with your shaped smile
no teeth no peeling skin
in your pale terracotta
with sparkles for freckles

I touch my cheeks
You do not sing
and so I must for both of us

My story is nothing
left on some rock

It is not only the mermaid, it is about that inner us too, which faces rejection in love for whatsover reason. Yet we go on, defenceless but strong. Rawness is everywhere, yet we grow a skin on it. This is how I truly felt after reading this chapbook. Poetry lovers will like it. It is not an easy read, what with the usage of poetic language but it grows on us and slowly permeates our mind, touching our heart.

Take this:

Apology For Leaving You Behind

when the tide goes out and shows your name
rippled in sand where I sang
please understand
I know better

then to bend
my fish bones
and stretch my scaled skin
to flow up through your pipes
to stare
at white foam on your skin

than to think
our single night before I left
was love

but if I'd believed
it was love
to make love

I'd still have my legs


Staci said...

I find poetry so hard to understand sometimes but I am always in awe of those who can write such beautiful verses!

serendipity_viv said...

I haven't read much poetry, but I can understand how you enjoy it.

Margot at Joyfully Retired said...

The last one was so beautiful. This sounds like a wonderful collection. Thanks for sharing such a great find.

Sassy Brit @ said...

Hi! I'm not a poetry expert, and not usually one for free versse, but I enjoyed The Poetic Musings of an Old Fat Man, by Harry E. Gilleman. I wrote a review on my findings. I rather liked Apology For Leaving You Behind.

Hope you are getting on well with your own poetry - as in -- writing lots of it!


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

You have real talent. I have never written poetry, and in school had trouble analyzing anything really really deep. you are amazing.

Ti said...

I love poetry but I have to be in the mood to read it and so often I am not ;)

I love the title of this one though.

ds said...

This is wonderful stuff,Gautami. I particularly liked "Apology for Leaving You Behind." Thanks so much for sharing it. How did you find the author?

Book Dragon said...

Thanks for stopping by. I don't do poetry but you've opened my eyes. What would you recommend for a first-timer?

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. I already have this one on my to-read list, but thanks for sharing the poems.

Leslie said...

very interesting =)

Anonymous said...

Sounds good. Poetry is one of the harder things to write

Bryan R. Terry said...

Very nice. I've always thought that Mary Magdalene was one of the most misunderstood and maligned Biblical figures out there.

My finds are HERE

Kelly said...

Very nice, it sounds like a lovely book!

My find is here.