GENEVIEVE KAPLAN Reviews
Part, Part Euphrates by Arpine Konyalian Grenier
(NeO Pepper Press, Cleveland, OH, 2007)
The five long poems that make up Arpine Konyalian Grenier’s Part, Part Euphrates are located in “poor ugly motherless Beirut suffering anonymity” (15), where “the wall between east and west…is weeping more / rock” (15) and “destination is surveillance” (24). Grenier’s poems tend to be more evocative than narrative; they observe, they think, they relate; they invite readers to feel what it is like to live in the “multicultural now” (11) that is Lebanon. In these poems, violences are large and small, genders are continually separated, and sin and survivors abound. However, even if “nothing is new in Lebanon” (11), Grenier reminds readers that everything is connected, and everything matters: “on the day of the burial time stilled / whether one was at the funeral or not” (11).
In the poems in Part, Part Euphrates, the mundane— “attached is a brief resume / educational background and work experience” (35)—collides with the political—“the EPA/theG8” (28) and “Kyoto protocols” (29)—, and all is framed by a very deeply felt poetic voice. This narrator is incredibly human; she admits, “I am afraid of water and air and everything green or living” (26). And her recurring “relationship with G” has a relatable inevitability about it. While G is a somewhat traditional romantic interest (“love = wind = G / the pull about her” (12)), the character of G is also incessantly mulled over: “-What should I now focus on regarding my relationship with G?,” the speaker asks, “-How should my perspective and course of action be at this time in order to ensure a smooth and healthy life with G?” (9). G is not just romance, she is also realism and neurosis.
This is the key strength of Grenier’s work: her poems encompass so much. While the poems tend to resist easy parsing, in every stanza there is a phrase, image, or question to draw readers and keep them moving forward. And, Grenier’s writing effectively demonstrate, in a way that feels both current and very necessary, the difficulties of living in a society steeped in a history that is both divisive and outdated.
Genevieve Kaplan is the author of In the ice house (Red Hen Press, 2011), winner of the A Room of Her Own Foundation's poetry publication prize, and settings for these scenes (Convulsive Editions, 2013), a chapbook of continual erasures. She lives in southern California and edits the Toad Press International chapbook series, publishing contemporary translations of poetry and prose.