(Fountainhall, Scotland, UK)
INCLUSIVENESS AND MAGIC – SIMONA-GRAZIA DIMA’S POETRY
I first heard Simona Grazia Dima (Romania) reading her poetry at the Culture Centre in Ohrid, Macedonia in 2008. The setting was a curious contrast of the simple and the sublime. The room in this rather starkly functional building was bare of furniture apart from the chairs on which people were sitting. But the wall facing the lake had huge windows and during the reading the sun hovered over the water, turning it and the sky and clouds incandescent with gold, scarlet and purple. The contrast of the bare and simple with the magnificent colours and drama of nature was a fitting backdrop for Simona's poetry which often uses language of deceptive simplicity that points to proximate, allusive or half-submerged meanings which knock on the doors of our senses and understanding, sometimes softly, sometimes with insistence and sometimes delivering blows of meaning.
Since then I have had the pleasure of reading many of Simona's poems, and of working with her to produce English translations of some of them, which have been published in British magazines.
Her poetry deals with life's most profound themes – birth, death, rebirth and transformation, with forms and possibilities of identity that reach from stars to elemental particles. Figures, sometimes mysterious, appear and vanish, taking on a quality of myth, and showing complex and subtle relationships with our human experience. These pervasive connections can be very intimate and often surprising and startling in their originality. Aeons-long elemental processes give us a glimpse of the kind of time that is pointed to, the enduring patient time of slow transformation as in Creature:
'And where do you make your bed?'
Only on cooled lava.’
And in Man of Water:
‘the loneliness of the cliff splashed by waves’
Her images often have an amorphous quality, their shapes changing before our eyes, showing the inter-relatedness of discrete forms. So we have the actuality of appearances which can be put into words and forms, and the underlying reality, which is changing, seeming-infinite in its potential.
Our capacity for language, to donate names and words, is sometimes seen as a process that turns aliveness into something inanimate, frozen or petrified, like in The Fall into Poetry:
‘Dreaming palm trees
heavy with dates.....
consented to give up their lives
While life experienced as metaphor, as it is lived in dreams, contains the impulse, the spark, that is, life itself:
‘I would speak where one should keep quiet
and my voice was human
and was not allowed. They will cut me,
to remain a fish’
(On the Kitchen Table)
Tension exists between two polarities. One creates form, definition and its separateness (including death), and the attendant commerce, counting and assimilation. The other resists and defies such imprisonment in definition, showing its profound and timeless nature and its amorphous, shape-changing abilities, embracing birth and death of individuality and flaunting its own freedom in that ability.
Yet the opposites constantly seek each other out for they are part of each other. So, in The Slab we have the creature, hidden underwater, in darkness, which ‘comes into my house, at noon’ i.e. comes home, in full daylight, so we have transformation, of what is separated and different and hidden, into meeting, the light of consciousness and recognition:
‘One day it will come
into my house at noon:
Who set you free? I shall ask in wonder.
Your rock-melting thought, who else? ’
Beyond the dualities of good and evil, order and chaos, in I'm Something Else the soul ‘gifted with wisdom, a playful child’ finds a way to transcend dualities which can seem like self-torturing dilemmas.
Yet in Dream Weaponry the vision of the inseparable relationship of personality with soul has nothing domesticated and cosy but is wild, free and ancient.
‘Like a tiger, slipping through creepers and shadows,
I'm inching ever closer to my soul,
which is ready to tear me up
at the slightest quiver
of the leaves.’
In The Disengagement it is the interaction between the two characters, the two foci of awareness that gives freedom to 'you'.
‘May you longingly remember all that has been.
It is through me that you have preserved your freedom!’
Disengaged at the end, freedom is born out of the fear and friction of their encounter – like a dance or a conflict where interaction and expression is the goal, where insistence on a deeper unity is apparent, rather than conquest or annihilation of one by the other.
In Poetry Workshop the contrast and ambiguity is between wild and mild yet it leaves something unsettling in the mind:
‘[He] dons his weatherproof coat,
walks out of the room,
and boards a tram.’
Equally in The Poet among the Congressmen, the contrast is between appearance and underlying reality though the poet is uncomfortably aware of his/her ill-fitting 'disguise' (I also remark here some delicious images):
‘...through my muslin suit
my body appears like beech-bark,
my bear paws poke from sleeves..........
and my hair stands on end rather often ‘
The underlying ethics of this poetry is a profound acceptance of otherness through engagement, even if or particularly if it is thorny, difficult, lacerating as in The Runner, even if it brings death of forms, even if 'the other' is so unlike us as to be wildly unknown and deeply threatening.
Simona's poetry is evocative of memories, half-glimpsed shapes, echoing with resonances. It reminds of a fluid, shifting world that we once knew, once inhabited; words are pointers, and metaphors – signposts to a world we once inhabited.
There is a profundity that can bring a deep sense of homecoming:
‘No I hadn't gone astray
that was obviously the place’
or an equally deep disquiet:
‘Still, each night he hears
the baying of the hounds
an unbearable howling for their master.
Whom had he served? He doesn't know’
You are precipitated out of Everyday into a world soaked with meaning. You are left with traces – ‘air threads/on the downy bounds of my being’ (The Morning and Sunset with me) of a profound journey that includes the light of stars as well as ‘the deep memory of the so-called inanimate – ‘greenish pebbles/wise and cold’ – (Dream Weaponry). And yet, even our lives of counting, commerce and comfort are not excluded, are not God-forgotten. In this inclusiveness lies much of the magic of Simona's poetry, like in her poem Stopping the Sale which states that soul stuff cannot be sold, while soul journeys can find no monetary equivalent. (Again, the theme of relationship.): 'The goods' (i.e. poetry or/and spirit) provide invulnerable shelter, peace and sustenance – which cannot be equated with any money. Values are transient or eternal. The latter cannot be put into terms of the former.
This inclusiveness injects magic as well as compassion – it is also the hallmark of the spiritual quest that is at the heart of Simona's poetry. This quest is conveyed in different ways. Sometimes it is in contrasts between the mundane and the transcendent worlds. In Love Reveals itself Slowly there are images of the claims of the world made on our activities: ‘gold hidden under flagstones, houses had to be built, children are taken ‘to guitar or accordion classes’, authorities are treated with deference ‘they would suck up, to pass exams’. Contrasted with these images we have ‘the power of patience’, the ‘open cone of light’ with its ‘translucent boat’ which gives them ‘free passage’ – which has nothing to do with transaction and commerce – ‘for which they hadn't paid.’ Similarly, in Why?, ‘our haphazard passage through a maze of market places, ...There is nothing to remind me/ of the diamond. Yet it still pulses, radiant'.
July 2010, Edinburgh, Scotland
Morelle Smith was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and studied English and French at Edinburgh University. Her poems and stories are published in various magazines in the UK and Ireland. Her poetry collection Deepwater Terminal was published by ‘diehard’ (www.poetryscotland.com). She is also an obsessive traveller, currently writing a book about her experiences in Albania.
Morelle Smith is a writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, with a particular interest in the Balkans. She has published several poetry collections, the most recent is The Ravens and the Lemon Tree, a collection of stories, Streets of Tirana, Almost Spring, and two novellas, Touching the Shell. She has collaborated and exhibited with visual artists and her poems have been displayed on public transport systems in Edinburgh and Glasgow. She has received a Writers Bursary and Professional Development Grants from the Scottish Arts Council, and has given readings and workshops funded by Live Literature Scotland and the Welsh Academy. She has had three writers residencies in France, and one in Serbia. She translates from French and her own work has been translated into French, Albanian, Slovenian and Romanian. Many of her travel articles can be seen on Balkan Travellers www.balkantravellers.com
is Rivertrain http://rivertrain.blogspot.com
Morelle recently published an ebook called Time Loop, which you can find at NoSpine.com
- born in Timişoara, in a family of writers.
Simona-Grazia Dima is a Bucharest-based poet, essayist, literary critic, translator and editor, the author of 13 books (among which 10 poetry collections, 2 books of essays and one translation from English of a book about an Indian sage). She works as an editor in the Romanian Academy and is the general secretary of the Romanian PEN-Club. In this era, which we may consider to be a post-post modern one, Simona-Grazia Dima still believes in the virtues and power of logos, the poetic word, which can offer not only an outer journey, but an inner one as well. Thus, that lightning mentioned in the title of her forthcoming collection may offer, along with the strike, a certain degree of illumination, and thus serve as a vehicle into a realm parallel with the one we already know. It is not a physical realm, but a spiritual one, milder, and full of love for every creature in the world.