Words Made of Silk
By Jean-Yves Solinga
($19.95, (7” X 10”) Paperback, 134 pages)
Words Made of Silk is a beautiful book of poetry, the fifth to be published by Little Red Tree Publishing, in which Jean-Yves has once again created a complete book of poetry, both riveting and challenging. Jean-Yves floats with consummate ease between the real tragic consequences of egregious acts of inhumanity, and the ineffable and ethereal vapors of sensual erotic sensibilities: an innate, subliminal yet synergic tour de force.
These poems are pulled toward two very contrasting poles: hard reality and vaporous lyricism. At times, the fluctuation between the thematic in the chapter listing of the poems is extreme. The split in my state of mind is not new but it has evolved into immediacy: into an urgency in the more graphic expression of some of these multiple realities. A world where we cherish living and loving, where we can witness the biological beauty of the earth and yet see loved ones disappear and the fragile environment constantly threatened.
It was the split of my cultural world that divided my poetic world in Clair-Obscur of the Soul. And I still feel the need to explore the inner working of things: the more complicated truths behind the events, the people, the laws, the inventions that touch us: “Dream Sequence: The Silent Man,” “Dream Sequence Four: The Lost Man Of Mankind,” “Just Doing His Job.”
There are morally compromised relationships; Faustian bargains that we would rather keep hidden in order to sleep more soundly at night. For example, many of the basic elements needed for the function of our modern equipment come from troubled or impoverished areas of the world. We have, in addition, otherwise mild-mannered, God-fearing social acquaintances who work on unethical products or behave unethically: “Just Doing His Job,” “Aging Executive With Benefits.” It would be so much more comfortable to have poetry evolve only in a safe, filtered atmosphere; but that has never been the case.
This oscillation in the thematic of my poems, found in the softness of the colored reconstructions of past memories, or the quasi anti-poetic of genocidal history, could have been a major dilemma in the determination of chapter headings and subdivisions. Should I have strived for a balance in the number of respective entries between these two worlds of lyricism and hard reality?
It occurred to me that, instead of trying to reconcile these opposite tendencies in the order of the poems, I could, with just some slight alterations use the chronological inception of each poem. This results in a real-life exemplar of artistic rumination. And so, this explains the subheading of this introduction: “A year’s worth….”
There is indeed about a year’s time between “Of Beautiful Curves And Economic Decrepitude” and “Magical Dust” and the result is truly a sort of artistic journal.
This book turned into a photographic negative plate, a concrete compilation of the effects of the inside and outside worlds on the mind: the gratuitous vagaries of remembrance. The unsolicited intrusions of the past. The unwanted or unstoppable reflections on all of that baggage: Precious. Cumbersome. Irretrievable.
I have taken some liberties with what would be more traditionally considered topics of the poetic genre. I was even tempted to compile a chapter under the heading: anti-poems or anti-poetry. This, akin to what some of the poets of the Theatre of the Absurd, such as Eugène Ionesco and Samuel Becket did in their attempts at dramatic plays that purposefully devalued speech. That is, deconstruct words to their lowest communicative level in order to parse out their potential inner power in political, militaristic propaganda, or interpersonal role in lies and truth: “The Bald Soprano,” “Rhinocéros,” “Waiting for Godot.”
This is again the case in poems like “If” (About a grammatical rule in French), “Literary Theories at the personal level” (About the very academic concept of the ‘signified’ and the ‘signifier’ in the New Critic.) or “Of Revolution And Luck” (About the physical distance between Great Britain and America that allowed the fighting to be more benign and therefore the repression less intense as compared to the one in France where revolutionaries were surrounded within miles by multiple fearful monarchies). “Rorschach Nation” (How to interpret the original intent of the United States Constitution? What do we mean by loaded signifier words like: woman, disagreement, allegiance?
But the relationship between the poet and his art [Yes, indeed, his Muse] is still paramount to me. It is still at the intersection of things untouchable that the human mind redeems itself even if it is at times guilty of reprehensible actions: “African Harmony” versus “The Flower And The Butterfly.” The unfiltered evil of genocide of the former and the images of tenderness in nature. Flaubert did not need to have a beautiful subject; but rather the goal of beautiful descriptions. Indeed, privileged is he who, in that half-world between sleep and full consciousness, can still hear the last words of his muse as she hides in the half shadows at the foot of his bed: “The Painting,” “Magical Ink,” “Ghost,” “Words Made Of Silk,” and “The Gentle Princess.”
The recurring theme and presence of silk opened a lyrical world at the crossroad of the organic and transcendental. There is indeed in that substance the multiplicity of life after animal life: sensuality of touch and sight as captured by the book cover and associated poems.
Some poems have a definite sharp political edge and are meant to cause some well-deserved discomfort: “High Tech Machines And Killings,” “African Harmony,” “Just Doing His Job,” “Of Children’s Games And Full Metal Jackets,” “Live Television Feed From The Crucifixion” or even “Bordeaux-like Wines.”
Physical or emotional ‘isolation’ (as mentioned in the title of Chapter III) makes the mirror a metaphor for a window on the inner and outer worlds: Montaigne retreated to his tower in order to reflect on himself and in his thoughts he found pieces of mankind. Adding an extra layering of interpretation, I have plainly indicated the leitmotifs in some of the themes of previously published ones: “A Glorious Moment,” “Magical dust,” “Dreams of Blue Silk,” for instance.
As usual, I do not tie my poetry directly or obviously to my life. Firstly, because my esthetic is that art can stand on its own: real or fictional. Secondly, because the use of pastiche, or assemblage of a collage of fiction on the surface of reality, give the artist unbridled freedom: especially in my dream sequence poems.
But some topics are essentially inspired from a personal or political background as should be evident to the reader. For example, “Flattened Memories” is about my mother, sister and brother (During World War I for my mother and then World War II for all three). “Same Street… Different Worlds” is about a dear friend who had just lost his wife while we, unknowingly, were having a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. These are the types of antithetical worlds that poetry distils so well.
And under the heading that mankind, in spite of all the horrors that can befall it, is capable of symbols of hope, “Fragile Letters” is dedicated to my first grandchild, Noëlle, and “The Symbol Of Things Good” to Luc my first grandson.
Jean-Yves Vincent Solinga
Gales Ferry, Connecticut