Romantic reverberations from a soulful new voice.
Review of “Cries of
the Soul”, an exciting new collection of poetry by Orania Hamilton,
Copyright 2007, 100 pages, perfect bound on #70 smooth crème paper,
softcover price: US $10.00 / Canadian $12.00. Published by
New York, USA, ISBN 978-0-9723493-2-1, ISBN 10: 0-9723493-2-4.
Already in her preface to “Cries of the Soul”, Orania Hamilton gives
the readers of her book a fitting indication of her philosophy of
life, love and poetry: “Words like the wind touch each one of us
as gentle rain washes away our tears. Poetry is like a seed planted
in soil wanting to be nourished to grow with brilliant colors that
please the human thought. Take my hand. Stroll with me through these
pages of love, sadness, desire, happiness, family...and friends.”
These are powerful words, which give rise to great expectations in
terms of individual and collective identification on the part of the
reader – and the author’s ability to communicate her perceptions and
experiences on an interpersonal and artistic level.
Successful poetry is much more than mere wordplay and literary
dexterity – it should evoke an “interplay” between author and
reader, and invite the reader to personally “recognise” both the
superficial and the deeper reaches of human behaviour and sentiment
as presented by the author; as if looking into a mirror of inner
reflection. It is a “spooky” experience to suddenly discover that
another has gained insight into one’s own personal secret thoughts;
and it is this characteristic of Hamilton’s poetry that makes it
There are many beautiful passages, notably:
I felt the grains slip through my fingers.
Jewels lose their luster.
I stand empty.
Love dies in your shadow.
- (“L’amour est mort.”)
Bring me to heights I
have not yet known.
- (“Echoes of the mind.”)
as well as
Outside my window, a pond offers
an artistic view of weeping willow.
Its branch tips curlicue in quiet water
like tears that sweep the cheek.
- (“Nourishment of the soul.”)
Orania Hamilton has taken upon herself a difficult task: to
effectively write ‘romantic, traditional poetry’ in a contemporary
context. The primary dangers of this style in a modern context are:
perceived over-dramatisation and over-writing. For the most part,
Ms. Hamilton effectively meets these challenges, but her success
cannot be attributed to her literary talent alone – she manages to
convey her personal maturity and self-reflection so effectively than
any disposition towards overwriting and over-romanticising is
readily accepted as intentional and a part of who she is, and is
therefore “essential”. Her poetry is highly suitable for
performance: either in front of an audience, or reciting to oneself
– aloud, or through one’s nearly audible thoughts. This quality of
“active (suitable for performance), yet reflective poetry” is
somewhat reminiscent of literary traditions from ancient cultures;
as well as of intimate literary “parlour soirées” of more recent
centuries, and is – in my opinion – highly appropriate for
reflective verse and prose.
That being said, my primary criticism regarding this collection of
verse is that there is almost no relief from the personal intensity
by an author who has much to say. Some of the passages in her poems
would function quite well on their own as individual small poems,
and the combination of shorter and longer works would give the
entire collection a bit more ebb and flow. This is a common
challenge for “gifted” poets .. to evaluate when “less” is “better”:
the learned sense of trusting that one has actually found the source
and centre .. the essence of the poetic sentiment .. within just a
few lines. I am a great fan of rapturous poetry, but romantic and
reflective poetry can also be achieved through brevity and
simplicity. This has not so much to do with over-writing, but rather
with feeling and presenting the “music” of the entire book in a
total and integrated sense; including the pauses and silences.
That being said, I personally believe that Ms. Hamilton has a
promising future ahead of her as an author; and I would encourage
her especially to further develop her excellent talent for writing
poetry that can be recited .. as well as read to oneself.
- Literary criticism by Adam Donaldson Powell (based upon Cries
of the Soul, ISBN 978-0-9723493-2-1, ISBN 10: 0-9723493-2-4).
Orania Hamilton (USA) is a three-time nominee for the
prestigious Pushcart Prize – Best of the Small Presses series (in
2005, 2006 and in 2007), which has been awarded each year (since
1976) to outstanding authors. In addition to having won several
prizes for her poetry, Ms. Hamilton’s poetic works have been
published in a number of literary magazines and anthologies the past
several years. She has also been featured as a guest poet in the US
and in England on several occasions. Orania Hamilton is of Greek
descent and, while she is a relatively new “exciting voice” in the
genre of poetry (since 1999), her work proudly recalls and furthers
the Greek tradition of literary and poetic excellence the world has
been so graciously blessed with since ancient times. “Cries of the
Soul” is Ms. Hamilton’s first book-length poetry collection.
DONALDSON POWELL (Norway)
is a literary critic and a multilingual author, writing in English,
Spanish, French and Norwegian; and a professional visual artist. He
has published five books (including collections of poetry, short
stories and literary criticism) in the USA, Norway and India, as
well as several short and longer works in international literary
publications on several continents. He has previously authored
theatrical works performed onstage, and he has (to-date) read his
poetry at venues in New York City, Oslo (Norway), Buenos Aires and
Copyright 2007, Adam Donaldson Powell.
(Book cover image by courtesy of Water Forest Press.)