I just read Prophetikon by Filitsa Sofianou-Mullen for the second time—the first was like an immersion in wild waters, a kind of forceful baptism into the poet’s visions and memories. The second reading gave me a deeper understanding of the importance of looking at the world with fresh eyes, of looking at the simple things in life with awe and at the traumatic things in life with acceptance and endurance.
The poet’s native Greece features almost permanently in her poems: the sea, Olympus across from it, the streets of her town, her home, her neighbors cooking, visions of childhood and motherhood in those places, and even reminiscences of how things used to be before “the posh cafés” took over. Other poems are more universal albeit localized: what is famine, what is it for a young girl to be begging relatives for food for her baby brother, after walking over the dead bodies of neighbors who have apparently starved to death and are left on the curb to be presumably picked up? What is happiness for the poet and for us, if not a simple worm-shaped poem that talks about spring time, rain and a child’s shoes leaving “worms intact and wriggling”? How does wisdom come to childhood?
I especially liked the dense poem about a real person “Christina 1979”. In it, although death is not mentioned, a school-fellow must have died and the poem is an attempt to come to terms with the death of the school-fellow and with the idea of death in general, as a girl contemplates it in her mother’s arms after her friend’s funeral.
I think the best poem in the collection is “Patmos”, a simple rustic incident on this island of the Dodecanese that forces the poet to contemplate from a bull’s perspective the confusion between ecstasy or life and death or “the short distance between delight and fall”.
The poems in this book will transport readers to Mediterranean landscapes redolent with pomegranate and mourning doves and into visons and prophecies for the past, present and future.
Here an interview with Filitsa Sofianou- Mullen