“Vespers honors the people of the Far North and their harsh yet inherently poetic and colorful surroundings.
Manolis’ poems and Ken Kirkby’s paintings uncover deep values and symbols from within the remote and breathtaking Arctic landscape. They render intimate scenes that appear at the same time starkly apparent and profoundly layered.
The exquisite techniques of both poet and artist help project their inspiration: the pristine and wild esthetic, while illuminating the cultural experience in its essence. ”
– Apryl Leaf, poet
“Vespers is a stunning collection that takes one away from the warmth and comfort of domestic life and throws one into the Canadian wilderness. Ken Kirby’s paintings offer the perfect compliment to Manolis’ words. Together they have created an artistic gift that allows the reader to experience the vastness of this country. The harshness of the Canadian north is juxtaposed with the raw beauty that exists in that space, where linear time is forgotten and circle of nature rules. This is truly a beautiful collection that weaves together the visual and poetic to tell the story of the emotional extremes of life in the far north. ”
– Cathi Shaw
Professor of Communications
Poet cries out to painter, craft me an eloquent verse with charmed couplets rhyming emotion and the painter replies, poet, paint me a joyful canvas splashing beauty on in layers And when they sweated they wiped each other’s brow and when they tired they steadied each other’s arm until…
The making of paintings and the writing of poetry are solitary activities. They are the property of the senses and are often beyond reason’s frail reach.
I consider poetry the highest of the art forms, so it was with surprise and delight I learned that Manolis, an exceptionally fine poet, was interested in a collaboration of our efforts. The results are this beautiful book.
Like Manolis, I was not born in this country we now call Canada. I am an immigrant in a long line of immigrants reaching back over millennia to the first human beings who came to populate this continent.
I was drawn to this immense country of countless shape-shifting places, from the stories recounted by an old Portuguese whaler when I was a child. Over more than fifty years later, I am left with a sense of wonder and a profound gratitude for my good fortune to be part of this place.
The works in this book have been made from curiosity, desire and discipline. I hope they engage you as much as they have us who made them.
– Ken Kirkby, Canadian painter
It seems to me that anyone reading Manolis’ new collection of poems, Vespers, might be immediately struck by the mutual staring that goes on between the poet and the immutable eye of God. For it is out of this radiant stream of sensations and deep tangle of truths, that Manolis has crafted images to rise like mercury through the ontological hollows of his existence. This effect is amplified further by his unique style in which associations are threaded in and out of primal depictions of landscapes that pulse and hum with the presence of something beyond human creation.
Manolis’ literary projections of form, syntax, and movement, are much like the complimentary canvases of Ken Kirby that accompany his poems; they merge in an almost liturgical celebration of the thing that is eternal in all of us and will no doubt survive all our struggles and efforts… and evening prayers. The artist and poet do not hide behind this wisdom, nor do they try to bargain it away from the barrenness and silence that confronts the individual who finds himself conscious in a world that has fallen out of its harness. Instead they labor successfully to evoke meaning and dynamism at the intersection of mystery and uncertainty.
The poems and images come as if from artists empowered to both weep and praise when the day’s journey is done. And that perhaps is at the core of this collection, an honesty and vulnerability from the heroic soul of a man who has entered the realm of nature expecting nothing less than to be welcomed right round the corner.
– Ilya Tourtidis
Elongated shadow of foreground
lacking luster on its base
boulder’s right arm
extended, balancing left’s
faint smile on imaginary
red sky lips define
dusk and hopes for
a sailor’s delight
a seal’s head silhouette
in the surface of translucent
water silent and flat
desolate, forlorn peace
in a sailor’s mind and heart
in the Inukshuk’s arms
The riverbank salutes his
eyes observing life like
passionate current’s fro
whirlpool over rocky dip
another turn and the log
will be claimed at dusk
or while blue ray vanishes
standing as if on mosaic
staring at its miracle and fishes
having the time of his life
taking what is required
leaves the rest for another
day, leaving tomorrow’s
nourishment for its turn
no need for hording
about the author
Manolis (Emmanuel Aligizakis) is a Greek-Canadian poet and author who has written three novels and numerous collections of poetry. His articles, poems and short stories in both Greek and English have appeared in various magazines and newspapers in Canada, United States, Sweden, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Australia, and Greece. His poetry has been translated into Spanish, Romanian, Swedish, German, Hungarian languages and has been published in book form or in magazines in various countries.
A translation book by Manolis, ‘George Seferis-Collected Poems’ was shortlisted for the Greek National Literary Awards.
Manolis heads Libros Libertad, an unorthodox and independent publishing company that he founded in 2006 with the mission of publishing literary books.
He was recently appointed an honorary instructor and fellow of the International Arts Academy, and awarded a Masters for the Arts in Literature.
More on Manolis Aligizakis
about the painter
Ken Kirkby was born in 1940 in London, England. His family moved to Spain in 1945 and then, one year later, to Portugal where Kirkby spent his formative years. Kirkby moved to Canada in 1958 and made his way north. During a five-year period, he lived with various groups of Inuit and travelled Canada’s Far North extensively, recording the landscape, the people and the conditions in a vast collection of drawings.
On returning from the Arctic, Kirkby took up residence in Vancouver and began translating his sketches into magnificent oil paintings. His crowning achievement is a massive work titled “Isumataq”.
While he continues to present the Far North in his paintings, he has turned his attention to depicting the grandeur of the West Coast. He now lives on the shores of eastern Vancouver Island and is the president of the Nile Creek Enhancement Society, a nonprofit, non-governmental organization recognized for the restoration of salmon habitat in the local rivers, estuaries and adjacent sea.