My Review of The Queen Of Metaphors: The Tongue Of My Muse by Anahit Arustamyan
( Available as a paperback and as an E-book on Amazon. )
( First posted on Goodreads, Amazon.UK and Amazon.com )
Anahit Arustamyan writes like no other. She is a real one, a true poet, I think. She has created her own corner to write in, free of all other styles and schools. Prose poems, she calls her works, which is what they are. They are never prosaic, however, but always pure poetry, high and fine. Each of her works is presented as a short paragraph with the occasional use of rhyme, The rhymes always seem natural, never forced. Only she knows how she came to write in her unique prose poem style. An original voice such as hers is rare and deserves to be heard by many. In her lines, her spirit speaks. She writes from the root, not the surface. The hurt in her heart, caused by sorrows in her past and that of her land of Armenia, she reveals in her prose poems, but also her love of life and her desire to venture into new places and experiences.
It does not matter to me what form a poem is written in, from the sonnet to the haiku to free verse with no capital letters or punctuation, it is memorable, quotable lines that makes a poem stand out and last. There is the old complaint, said in jest, that the problem with the works of William Shakespeare is that they are full of quotes. That is one reason why his works have lasted, they are alive with memorable, quotable lines. All the poets, ancient and modern, that have endured, had the same rare gift, they could write lines that you feel glad to have read and want to remember. What marks the work of Anahit Arustamyan out for me, apart from her original prose poem style, is her gift to write memorable, quotable lines. It is one you can only be born with, not be taught.
“Let’s drop some mint into our sour wine!” So she writes in her prose poem, We Have Talk With Our Time, included in her new book, The Queen Of Metaphors: The Tongue Of My Muse, to encourage and inspire her fellow writers of her time. A line that to me is a poem in itself. Each of her prose poems contain such memorable lines.
My Wandering Muse, My Lyrical Tongue, The Phantom’s Dolphin, her first three books, I found a pleasure to read and review. Her new book is wonderful, too. I like that in her prose poems her spirit does not dwell on itself alone. It comes as a pleasant shock when from a prose poem about her inner life, her regrets and longings, she turns her attention outward, to focus on the plight of illegal immigrants, for example, or the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers of New York, or the tragic time in the history of her own land, which she refers to as the Armenian genocide. In one prose poem, she writes movingly of the history of her home city, Yerevan. “I have bound my spine to your sculpted neck,” she tells Yerevan. “My proud city, you never knelt.”
In some ways her works remind me of the meditative poems of China and Japan I have read in English translation. In a prose poem called Bound To My Eyes, for example, I particularly liked the line: “No winter leaves at once as the sky admires its icy moustache.” Another prose poem begins with the wonderful Oriental verse sounding line: “Look! These snowflakes are flying like white butterflies.” Some of her lines conjure images as strange as those in a surrealist painting, like this one: “Life is a mirage riding a scooter.” I was moved by her poem for her father, another for her mother. I liked the serenity of Sail My Dreams, in which she states: “My violin will sound in your rain.” In one prose poem, she warns: “The Armenian Genocide happened long ago but any forgiven crime forges another bloody sword.”
I rarely read a novel more than once, even those I like best, but a good poem I can return to again and again. I have found that because the prose poems of Anahit Arustamyan are rarely clear, direct, but more like riddles, mazes, each time I read one of them again it is as if it was for the first time. That is rare, indeed. I like the title of her new book, The Queen Of Metaphors. To me, it could have two meanings. It could refer to the poet herself as the queen of metaphors or to the queen of Metaphors, being an ancient, forgotten city in Greece. I like the cover of her book, too. It is a mysterious blur of a picture, of a woman in a long white dress, stepping out of what looks like the tangle of a wood, towards the onlooker.
There is always a sadness I feel when reading or reviewing a poetry book, knowing that not many people write and like to read poetry. Perhaps those that do ought to realise what that means and seek each other out and support each other more. A poet with a voice as original as that of Anahit Arustamyan deserves to be heard, not by a few, but by many.