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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
Agape and Ares by Ksenia Sein, an Estonian poet and musician, is a lyrical narrative poem about an erotic meeting between a captivating Estonian tourist and a Greek Casanova. But placing the libretto under the title of the Greek God of War and the Goddess of Divine Love takes the storyline soaring far above a meeting in Fira, at a bar called Franco’s. Ah, it’s poetry and fine poetry at that. So, we can soar. As a child, Ares was deprived of his mother’s milk. He has the proverbial chip on his shoulder, is attractive to women, but not very nice to them. He is rough and resentful. But one glance at Agape and he must get to know her. She is not only lovely but can see the good beneath all cruel actions. She is empathetic and forgiving. And she is attracted to the seducer Agape. She drinks watermelon juice and he ouzaki, symbolic of their wide differences. She beautifully describes her homeland, especially the island of Saaremaa, and he takes her in his boat around the Aegean Sea to show her its islands and volcanos. Then some stuff happens that really tests Agape’s divine forgiveness.
Ms. Sein’s poem is divided into nine chapters, each preceded by an intriguing charcoal sketch. The whole presentation has a sophisticated, yet rustic ambiance. Each chapter has a series of mostly four-line stanzas. There’s no rhyme pattern, quite a bit of off-rhyme (light/life) (priest/police), some traditional rhyme (damned/land) (night/right), a lot of non-rhyme, and no regular meter; thus, the poem exemplifies modern free verse. I’m not sure of the significance of pairing Estonia and Greece, but that’s one of the things I love about poetry—the ambiguities that induce interpretation. Poets don’t like saying anything directly. So, this poem could well have sprung from something as mundane as a woman’s Greek vacation and a one-night stand with a dude she met at a bar. A meeting does occur, but the uplifting of the story to classic mythology gives the rendezvous a cosmic stature. The poet calls the piece “a novelette in verse,” which is how it reads. Some haunting imagery: “a loving heart now fogged with sorrow;” “the never-tasted nights with candles.” There’s a deep message too; the purification of violence through forgiveness. And the mythological references elevate Agape and Ares to the heights of relevance. In all—Thank you, Ksenia Sein, and bravo!