Manolis Aligizakis—An Interview, ENEKEN
Five and One Questions
~In your “Vernal Equinox” the presence of the ‘woman’, is evidently dominant. The erotic element almost alive characterizes your poetry, don’t you believe?
~All along I have believed that women are ‘The Beauty of Earth’ and can be looked that way via the prism of poetry not only as something virginal but also as the emancipated female. Images come to us from the ancient days describing the Kore as well as the Maiden with the same exquisite mastery. As the poet says:
I only remember of the sea
that sang between your legs
the beauty of Earth
~You’ve lived in Canada for over thirty years. How have you matured as a poet and within what poetic trend does your poetry fit?
~My first influences were the famous twentieth century Greek masters, Cavafy, Seferis, Ritsos, Elytis, who I have not just read but studied in detail for the most part of my life from my early adulthood to today, but I have been also influenced by the world celebrated and awarded poets such as Neruda, Lorca, Eliot, Milosz, Whitman, Pound, and of course a few Canadian poets, Yates, Musgrove, Cohen, Lane. Elements of these poets’ works can be seen in my poetry, yet I can not confine my work into a specific trend. I write in both Greek and English with the same ease and I have discovered that when I write a poem in one language and then write it in the other, and again go back and write it for the second time in the original language the poem takes that beautiful, graceful form that I consider as its most eloquent.
~What deeper need prompted you into publishing a book of poetry in Greek in Greece?
~After a few publications in English in Canada, England and the USA, with some of them having certain success, and having received good response from the reading public as well as a few very positive reviews in all three countries I decided it was time to go back to the roots, to present my work in my homeland as though searching for the warmth hidden in the Greek psyche that I have for so long felt nostalgic about.
~Greece is going through some very difficult times these days, in the economic world as well as in the social fabric of the country. How a Hellene of diaspora sees this situation?
~The Hellene of diaspora is almost foreign to the plight the country has got into for various reasons. One of them is that he doesn’t live the reality of the situation and he’s also quite uniformed, or rather, misinformed, because he gets his news from the established mass media outlets that only present one side of the coin. The same mass media that informs the Greeks in Greece are the media of this country and in the western world in general, don’t think that the mass media issue is only a Greek problem it exists here in North America as well. Therefore the Hellene of diaspora not knowing what to do and how to help he opts for doing nothing.
~In your short story “The Enemy” you write… “I also live with this (hatred) for years but I learned how to control it.” Do you believe that art can reconcile man with the pain and agony of his soul?
~I truly believe that art, in whichever form it may be expressed, the written word for instance that I delve into or any other, elevates man a step higher than the everyday and brings him closer to touching the godly, liberating man from himself by helping him transcend the flesh. As far as my short story is concerned, yes, ‘the enemy’, the Turk passenger whom the Greek taxi driver drives to the airport is also a victim, like his driver, of the concepts of borders and history. They are both living beings who don’t hate each other on the contrary they just care to raise their families, each in their own way and with their own means. However they are caught in the swirls of history and the past wars. They both suffer from the same kind of disease.
~In a society the lives off and for commerce and money based mentality, where the social inequalities are so obviously perpetrated by cynicism and self centeredness, where one finds meaning in writing poetry?
~As I said before, I truly believe that art is the only medium, especially literature, through which the psycho-spiritual side of human beings can be uplifted to a high level of perception, thus liberating and refining the every day lives of the masses. We see today the catastrophic effects that consumerism has on man and to what extend it has affected today’s values and life, not only here in Greece, but the world over.
Let me ask why is it so important to buy a new car every three to four years, or why is it so necessary to have four television monitors in each home in the western world while we know there are millions of people who live on 1 or 2 dollars per day? Where one sees justice in that? While at the same time the rich western societies exploit and take advantage of the poor of the world in an never ending scenario of the multinationals and the special interest groups controlling what we see, what we hear, what we believe, what we have to think?
In such a society what may be found that it may help the people break the shackles of that kind of slavery? Only one medium: ART. Because art takes man from his everyday struggle and fills him with calm and relaxation, thus transposing him to a different level and filling his thoughts with hope for a better future.
“Vernal Equinox”, ENEKEN 2011, Thessaloniki, Greece—A review
The most striking characteristic in Manolis’ poetry is the powerful, sensual reference to the female body. The body that takes the form and appearance of a woman-goddess, of a woman-provocateur, of a woman of lust, of the woman one searches for, the woman one loses, the woman who never yields, the woman one loves, the one who defines one’s dream, the woman who defines one’s dream of love and life. Clear-cut poetry, sharp, to the point, full of emotion, beautiful images, erotic interludes that never took place, nostalgia, tyrannizing ambivalence, the game of relationships and in its very center the craving for the female body. It is poetry of the distance between two people, of the exile that unfolds in a collective and sometimes individual mode, of a paradise, of the undoubtedly lost innocence.