Emma Lee Reviews ‘Nature Lover’ By Efi Hatzimanolis

Reviewed ByEmma Lee

‘Nature Lover’ Efi Hatzimanolis

Owl Publishing http://www.owlpublishing.com.au/

ISBN 978-0-6482861-5-8, $10

‘Nature Lover’ explores the fragility and vulnerability in life, human and animal, and the idea of the ephemeral nature of life itself though the lens of the natural world. One of the early poems, ‘Flokati’, a traditional means of making a soft-piled wool rug, contrasts the easy way, ‘you could always just chuck it/ into a hot machine wash’ which would result in ‘shrinking to the size of a generous tea cosy’, or ‘beat the crap out of it with a sturdy broom/ takes all day’ and doesn’t stop there, the flokati has to be cleaned and rinsed,

‘flokati ooze
turns the bath water wine dark miraculously
Now Stamp!
Stamp until your thighs burn
your glutes scream
and your footprints disappear
stamp until the bubbles sink like boulders
drain, gird your loins and start again
for the rinse cycle

one refreshed flokati
and you’re rooted’

This manual labour creates a better rug. When something is too easy, there’s less satisfaction in completing it. Moreover, the rug will be maintained and treasured more than the ‘generous tea cosy’ made easily. The poet is not sentimental or romantic about nature, but in tune with its seasons, the cycle of death and renewal. ‘Poinsettia’s spring,’ looks at what happens to the winter flower,

‘A calcifying spring for the giver of red
who gave it all to winter’s dead
brittle scrape faced
veins stripped of their gold
holding up appearances, pinching
earrings chandeliers
from wisteria’s stranglehold’

The poinsettia isn’t ready to entirely give into death, borrowing wisteria to shore up its losses, even though its main job is to give colour to winter and fade in spring.

The title poem plays with the meanings in ‘lover’, using it as someone who loves nature but is also a lover. Initially a bullfrog, ‘I might have kissed him in a dare/ ‘had he not looked so thin skinned, squatting there’, clearly not one about to turn into a prince. A spider, ‘I was forced to flee/ as if escaping a rejected lover/ who fancies himself restored to me’ but the speaker ‘all innocent like/ I called for the gods to turn me into a tree?’ Finally, a stick insect who,

‘supplanting my other lovers, enraging your own
the baby pachyderms who tried to trip you up
the jealous baboons who threw their poo at you

Zeus never transformed himself into an insect lover,
tell me, was it you who turned me into a tree
covered me in velutinous leaves
made me unassailable, then unavailable
and finally, helped yourself for free?’

Daphne was turned into a tree to escape the lust of Apollo, an act that saved her from rape but not his ardour. In the poem too, the tree with velvety leaves is still desired. The implication in the last line is that the transformation didn’t save the narrator because the ancient gods are no longer invoked.

In ‘You died, surprised’, the person being addressed passes away in sleep and,

‘your neighbour’s nameless cat sneaking
in and out, moving between rooms
how you hated that cat, and how it was dying
to check you out’

The cat is nameless which suggests it wasn’t treated as a household pet so unloved. Although it may have been chased from the person’s home, it mistook the attention for affection of a sort and returned to check its territory anyway. It has probably sensed the person is reaching the end of life and has come to check the state of play.

In ‘Nature Lover’, nature is sneaky, tenacious and striving to cling onto life, adapting as necessary. It’s cycles of birth and death become a means of exploring human relationships and the loss of loved ones. The title poem draws on Greek myths, using nature as a metaphor for personal experience. Efi Hatzimanolis’ poems are accomplished, using natural speech rhythms and familiar vocabulary to communicate. Each poem has been whittled down to leave only what is necessary to achieve its purpose, yet there is still space for a reader to engage and interpret the poems.