Poetry in Conversation

On January 23rd I read poems about Crete, music, the Canadian north (including canoeing all night as a teenager), refugees, loss, love stories, and more for the launch of the Field Guide to the Lost Flower of Crete (McGill-Queen’s University Press).

The Greek composer Michalis Parakakis and I also had a wide ranging conversation about our individual and collaboration creative process. We discussed the differences between the Big Field and the Small Field and how we were sometimes lost in the field. Plus we compared our work-in-progress the music theater piece the “Field Guide” with our earlier ensemble piece “This.” While discussing transcriptions and translations we noted the similarities between the two. We also talked about how we do eighty percent of the creative work first in our minds before starting the handwriting/computer work, and lots more.

Thank you to all of you who were in our audience, for the wonderful comments and thoughtful and interesting questions. Michalis and I learned new aspects of our creativity through your engagement with us.

Michalis Paraskakis is a composer who is also active in other fields – video/visual arts, graphic design, performance, theatre, acting, and poetry. He has composed music for important musicians such as Klangforum Wien (AU), ASKO|Schönberg (NL), Nieuw Ensemble (NL), Momenta Quartet (USA), DissonArt (GR), as well as music for the theater, for cinema and music-theater works. He is the founder of the ensemble TETTTIX that performs new music and music-theater in a spectacle context. As a performer he is focusing on the demanding music-theater works of Xenakis, Aperghis and Christou and younger composers. He is also unofficially a writer/poet, mostly working for his projects with TETTTIX ensemble. At the same time his musical relation with poetry led to an ongoing collaboration with Eleonore Schömaier, plus the use of additional poems for his compositions including work by Eliot, Cavafi, Lorca, and Euripides among others. Currently he is completing his PhD in the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki on a large scale music-theater work that deals with confinement, language, time and mind.

Eleonore Schönmaier’s latest collection is Field Guide to the Lost Flower of Crete (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2021). Wavelengths of Your Song (MQUP, 2013) was published in German translation as Wellenlängen deines Liedes in 2020 by parasitenpresse (Cologne).  Dust Blown Side of the Journey (MQUP, 2017) was a finalist for the Eyelands Book Awards (Greece). Treading Fast Rivers (MQUP) was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for best first book of poetry in Canada. She has won the Alfred G. Bailey Prize, the Earle Birney Prize, and the National Broadsheet Contest 2019, among others. She was published in the League of Canadian Poets Poem in Your Pocket Day Brochure in 2018, 2019 and 2021, and in the Academy of American Poets Poem in Your Pocket Day brochure in 2018 and 2021. Widely anthologised in the United States and Canada she has also been published in Best Canadian Poetry. Her poetry has been set to music by Canadian, Dutch, Scottish, American and Greek composers and she has performed her poetry in concert with The New European Ensemble among others.

“A (re)creation of the surreality and altered time within deep states of grieving, Field Guide to the Lost Flower of Crete juxtaposes sorrow with fragmentary unapologetic joy. Eleonore Schönmaier forges compelling symphonic resonances between European musical encounters and a northern working-class childhood. Intimate reflections are contrasted with geopolitical and environmental concerns as Schönmaier’s fierce intelligence focuses on what is most essential in our lives.”

Tree roots are entwined into the walls of

the cave, and on the cliffs lining the gorge

goats stand with their tiny hooves as if

suspended in air…

“These are understated poems grounded in imagism, snapshots of a life, where the poet speaks quietly to her reader with precision and insight.” Armand Garnet Ruffo, author of Treaty#

“Spanning continents and decades, the poems in Field Guide to the Lost Flower of Crete bear witness to beauty, pain, and injustice alike. Meditative and musical, Schönmaier’s verse renders the world in vivid, attentive language.” Annick MacAskill, author of Murmurations

“Eleonore Schönmaier’s poems are profoundly lyrical. Their words come from a brave and tender witness, and in their white spaces is the sound of an orchestra playing by the sea.” Sadiqa de Meijer, author of The Outer Wards

5 comments

  1. I very much enjoyed the reading and your conversation. Thank you, Eleonore & all the best to you and Bruce !

  2. I very much enjoyed your readings (especially the ones about Red Lake, of course!), and it was interesting to discover more about your musical associations with Michalis.
    I am wondering why the replay is only available “for a short time”.
    Thank you so much for sharing your poetry and creative journey with us.

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