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 www.waterforestpress.com, 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 “soulful”.

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.

ADAM 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 Kathmandu (Nepal).

Copyright 2007, Adam Donaldson Powell.

(Book cover image by courtesy of Water Forest Press.)



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