What Excuse Is There For Flowers: Amy Henry on Maribor by Demosthenes Agrafiotis

Maribor, Demosthenes Agrafiotis, Post-Apollo Press, 2010

Maribor is a collection of poetry from Demosthenes Agrafiotis that focuses on the complexities of old versus new, especially in relation to civilization and historical regions in Europe. The title comes from Maribor, a city in Slovenia, and in many of the poems, we see the poet’s intention to try and make sense out of what remains from the past when combined with new attitudes and new technology. He refers to “the ridiculousness of names” and how people are “alive in a dead language”. He asserts that “narration becomes a lesson (moralistic) about the present” and how “time produces uneven memories”. Throughout, you can sense there is a hope in both the betterment of life for people in these complicated regions, as well as a wish for older traditions of the culture to remain intact.

The vivacity of the language is important; as a language dies out so does its cultural continuity. Idioms, phrases, and simple humor are lost along with a language, features that find no place in a new language. Consider the history of the Slovenia people in regard to their location: they came under the Austrian Hapsburg Rule, later forming Yugoslavia. For a time, Germany occupied Yugoslavia, attempted to part it out piecemeal. After his failure, it returned to its prewar Yugoslavian identity. Later, Slovenia was able to free themselves from Yugoslavia fairly peacefully, and now their own nation is part of both the European Union and NATO. In just a century, massive challenges presented themselves and yet the language remains. In #7 he illustrates how the two usually don’t mesh:

the survival
and the denial will be preserved
for the end
the falsehoods
the nuances of deception
are no longer postponed
trapped in feigned docility
in incomplete sentences

One of the longest pieces is #48, where he discusses all of the topics in a stream-of-consciousness style about the combination of tourists and residents in this land of history and folklore:

so what did you expect?

what fraction of language
to be dedicated
to the surface of objects
to the inertia of events
to the entropy of the world
to the elasticity of sounds?
the words slide on all
the voids.

Is the regional history relevant to understanding this poetry? Without understanding the fractures and domination that sometimes troubled this nation, one can’t possibly realize Agrafiotis’ references and the foundation of his words. Even though the emphasis seems to be on a larger significance of place, many of the poems appeal as well on a personal level. He considers, briefly, what excuse there is for flowers other than to enjoy their beauty? And how our concentration is lost on signposts and headlines so much that we miss the subtler details of life that have far deeper meanings.