Mykonos- K.J. Koukas

Background to the poem:

I recently went back home for a wee break. I was sitting out on our balcony and just enjoying the evening and watching the beautiful sunset. My mind was wandering (as it usually does) and the birds were chirping. Before I knew it this poem surfaced in my head and I quickly wrote it down before it decided to disappear. Hope you like it!

 

Mykonos – K.J. Koukas (April 2017)

Why! Have you seen
Anything so supreme
White and blue is the theme.

Far ahead windmills can be seen
Olive trees around make the scene
And let us not forget
Donkeys walking through the streets.

Come morning…

Cats and pelicans walking side by side
Talking about the days gone by
Fishermen preparing their morning catch
While locals sitting and having a chat.

The sun shining
And the sea glistening
As if small pieces
Of a mirror are sparkling.

Now come evening…

The sun is tucked away
Gone to sleep for another day.
The moon comes out
And settles for the night.

Out comes the night sky
Glowing with starlight.
Shooting stars ahead
Make a wish before it is too late.

Listen!
Crickets are singing their song
While night hunters are running along
Discovering a whole new world.

Look around and behold
For I believe
I have found paradise
In this part of the world.

Advertisements

Two seagulls – K. J. Koukas

Background to the poem:

Another one of my poems, but this one is slightly different. I am not sure what to call it. Maybe a comical poem? Don’t know. Some background to this. I come from a small island in Greece where everyone knows everyone. So sometimes there can be no privacy or a story could get round in seconds. Old families have nicknames, everyone is hospitable, and in some respect we are all one big family. Now, imagine old grandmothers sitting around, people watching, gossiping and spreading rumours. I was home over the Christmas period and while sitting at a cafe with my sister this poem just occurred. Our mascot is a pelican called Petros and on that particular day he was out roaming the roads. We saw him and said hello and there was an actual goose who would not stop crying. At one point the goose was ‘shouting’ at a parked car. My sister and I found that odd and laughed of course. So here it is…. 

Two seagulls – K. J. Koukas  (January 2017)
Sitting at the cafe
And what do I see ?
Two seagulls going by
Talking in a high.This is how it went.

Why did you hear ?
Said the one
About what ?
Said the other

Why about Petros the pelican?
What about Petros the pelican?
Why he had an affair
What ? Really?

Yes. Apparently she was quite a gal.
And he quite a flirt
Why yes. How did you know?
Why that is Petros for you.

Anyway. They went flapping together
You don’t say.
Why I do say.
And then what happened ?

Why then they ended up beaking.
No!?
Yes.
No!

I start gigging and they turn
They look at me
And say what a strange creature
They turn and start again.

Why did you hear ?
Said the one
About what?
Said the other.

Why about Mrs Goose.
What about Mrs Goose?
Why she was drunk and loud
Oh really?

Why yes…

And off they went.
Two seagulls going by
Talking on a high.

Frankenstein- Mary Shelley [Review]

“It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, collected the instruments of life around me that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.” (Frankenstein, Mary Shelley)

 

13096261992What a masterpiece! I have been meaning to read Frankenstein for so long and finally I did it. I should have done it ages ago. Now my gothic literature trilogy is done; Dracula, Frankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (review to come).

Frankenstein tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, the son of a prominent Swiss family who seems to have everything: wealth, youth, family and friends. The novel begins in the bleak North Pole, on a boat trapped in ice with Captain Robert Walton’s crew. Captain Walton finds Victor Frankenstein who is near death and chasing after a monster. While recovering Frankenstein narrates his story to Captain Walton.

Victor Frankenstein starts by telling the reader about his family and origins. He always had a burning desire for knowledge which takes him to Ingolstadt University in Germany and studies science. There his passion leads him to perform a deed as terrible as it is marvellous. He finds the secret of life itself and builds a man, a monster of a man and gives him life.  Soon Frankenstein realises what he has done and he is disgusted by his creation. He thinks of it as an abomination, rejects him, runs and hides from it.

The monster is never given a name. He is referred to as the monster throughout the novel and Frankenstein calls him everything from demon to ogre to wretch. Shelley’s depiction of the creature is marvellous. She could have made him look like a zombie-like monster or a terrifying creature, ’alien-looking’, but she presented him with a brilliant mind and a heart, a complicated heart but still a heart. All the monster wants is love, acceptance and to be understood. He exclaims to his creator ”I am not a monster. I have feelings just like you”.  The agony he feels comes across so real that you cannot help but feel sorry for the monster and hate Frankenstein for what he has done. I am going to admit that I for one feel sorry and pity for the monster and I can see where he is coming from. I do not like Victor Frankenstein one bit. He is arrogant, self-righteous and selfish. The monster is more sympathetic than his creator. All he wants is acceptance and love.

The fact that the monster is more likeable or more sympathetic than Frankenstein is one of the reasons that make this novel so great. It is not a horror story; it is a tragedy, a sad story. It explores the emotions that one who is rejected goes through and the actions that result from that rejection. The novel appears simple; scientist creates monster, monster goes on rapid murderous spree, scientist tries to stop it. However, by the end of the book the reader realises it is not that simple and is left wondering who was really evil. It is a serious story that shows the implications of science, of the consequences of someone playing god.41wmhy-xrxl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

The book is written as a series of narratives in the first person. One of the narratives is the monster’s perspective. In the middle of the book, the monster takes over detailing his first steps into the world and the terror he stirs in people.  It is daring of Mary Shelley to do this, but by doing this she is giving the monster a human side. The monster having been rejected by his creator and by the world flees. He is ‘born’ into a frightening and hostile world that immediately banishes him from everyone. Even his creator, who he sees as a father, rejects him and is scared of him. The monster, alone, flees and lives in a forest nearby a cottage. There he observes the family (that live there) and through them learns the way of man; reading, writing, speaking amongst other skills. One day he feels brave enough to present himself to the family hoping for acceptance. He does not get it and from that the real monster emerges. First, he is sad, then, he is enraged. The real monster is created by the hatred and frivolity of other humans. Banished and angry with humanity, the monster seeks revenge. He who has not done anything is called a monster and is feared because he is different. The monster falls victim to humanity’s prejudice and cruelty. His innocence has been corrupted by man and becomes the monster everyone thinks him to be.

It can be said that the story would have been different if people were less judgmental, a little less scared and more understanding. But then we would not have Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. How was Frankenstein created? Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was 18 years old. One evening, she along with Lord Byron, her husband and poet Percy Shelley and John Polidori, while staying in a cottage near Geneva, decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story.  Mary Shelley wanting to prove her worth to Lord Byron spent nights thinking of a story. Eventually she came up with Frankenstein, creating a masterpiece and introducing to the literary world the most important monster that will haunt us until today. Definitely give it a read. It will be worth it. Trust me.

 

”I am not a monster. I have feelings just like you” (Frankenstein, Mary Shelley)

Wondrous Land- K. J. Koukas

Background to the poem:

To be quite honest with you I have no idea where this poem came from. I was at the park with a friend and I was just gazing into the distance. I just love autumn, with the leaves falling from the trees. The orange  yellow colour. While I was processing the scene in front of me, a poem or two I read a long time ago came to my head and inspired me to write this. I hope you like it and it is not too terrible. 

Wondrous Land- K.J. Koukas [October 2016]

Behold this wondrous land.

The sun shines
And the flames flicker
The moon glistens
And the stars glitter

Lakes lay quiet
As the water sleeps
Wood crackles
As the fire heats.

Listen carefully
What is that you hear?

As howling wolves release their cries
There is a voice in the wind
Travelling from afar
Whispering tales long gone by

Behold this wondrous land
For it seems it is a fairyland.

Regeneration by Pat Barker [Review]

regenerationRegeneration. A brilliant, intense and subtle novel set in the First World War. The book is set at Craiglockhart War Hospital, 1917, a hospital for treating soldiers suffering from different forms of shell shock. It starts with anthropologist turned psychologist William Rivers waiting for the arrival of Siegfried Sassoon, who has been sent to Craiglockhart due to him protesting against the war, throwing his military cross in the Mersey River and writting a ‘letter of wilful defiance’. Robert Graves also makes an appearance in the book, a friend of Sassoon’s, who has actually sent Sassoon to Craiglockhart Hospital to spare him being court marshalled after his declaration against continuing fighting the Great War.

Throughout the book we are met by different characters suffering from shell shock. Some are fictitious and some are based on real people. Despite the fact that some patients are fictitious, Barker seems to have based them on actual cases recorded by the real Dr. Rivers which makes them as real as the likes of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. When reading the book, you cannot help but feel a bit melancholy and sorry for the poor victims suffering from shell shock. While Dr. Rivers makes his rounds of Craiglockhart checking on his patients, you get the feel of a life surrounded by suffering and tragedy. A haunting life.

siegfried_sassoon_by_george_charles_beresford_1915

Siegfried Sassoon

Barker manages to mix fiction and fact so effortlessly. Most of her characters did actually exist. As already mention, there is Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, along with psychologists who actual did exist and treat numerous of shell shocked patients (even though in the book some are nameless). We, the reader, get to see the inside world of these magnificent characters. We meet young, idealistic Wilfred Owen shyly giving his poems to Sassoon to look at. Sassoon helps Wilfred Owen have more faith in himself and soon we experience the writing of one of Owen’s famous poems; ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’.

sidepic

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

They become good friends and eventually have a mutual respect for one another. Dr. Rivers is another factual character in Regenation and you cannot help but love him. He cares for his patients and tries to treat their shell shock with the most humane way possible as well as with something close to tenderness. He himself has never been in battle so there is a distance from the horrible experience his patients have gone through. He lives the experience of warfare through his patients while secretly, I believe, feels guilty that he could not fight alongside his fellow countrymen. He believes that ”the war must be fought to a finish, for the sake of the succeeding generations”.

As well as her factual characters, Baker’s fictional characters are also very interesting. Billy Prior, for example, has a working-class background and risen to become a second- lieutenant. He comes to Craiglockhart not being able to speak (due to his experiences) as well as suffering from severe asthma. He is intelligent, ambitious, awkward and, socially and sexually ambiguous. At first, I have to admit, I was not sure whether I liked Prior as he was rude, crude and just … unbearable at times. But I did grow to like him and I was happy to see his progress and his route to recovery. His relationship to factory worker Sarah Lamb shows his softer side (I believe). Other patients (who are fictional) are: David Burns who has ‘vomiting nightmares caused by a mouthful of decomposing German flesh’ (not pleasant at all!) and Anderson, who was once a surgeon, but due to his wartime experiences cannot continue practising due to the fact that he hates the sight of blood and experiencing mental breakdowns.

There is a particular scene in the book which actually made me feel uneasy. To be fair, there were a few scenes that made me feel uneasy and so sorry for the soldiers going through all that; however, this scene takes place in a London hospital. Dr Rivers visits this particular hospital one day and watches Dr Lewis Yealland administering frequent and agonising electrical shocks to a patient who has been mute by his wartime experiences. When you area reading you can feel the terrified soldier trying to utter one single word so that this inhuman torture can stop. Even Dr Rivers feels uneasy during this ‘treatment’. We find out at the end of the book, an author’s note telling us that Dr. Lewis Yealland actually existed and he did use those ghastly methods during wartime as detailed in his book. Not my favourite part of the book at all.

rivers2

W.H.R. Rivers outside of Craiglochart Hospital

Regeneration is a thoughtful, sombre and sometimes a intense read. It’s a book that explores the mental state of soldiers affected by the Great War. It is a really good read and you do get invested in the characters. You are supporting them through their treatment and hoping they get better. You feel sorry for those who probably will not get better but are still remaining hopeful for them. I would recommend it to anyone especially those who are history fanatics and are interested in the First World War, but also to anyone who wants to give it a try. I have to warn you though, it is a book about a hospital with soldiers suffering from shell-shocked, it will be upsetting at certain times.

Apparently Regeneration is the first book in a trilogy. The second book is ‘The Eye in the Door’. Might have to go and find a copy of that soon.  Enjoy!

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out these hasty orisons.

-From Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

The Bees by Laline Paull [Review]

 ‘Changes the way we see our world’  —SUNDAY TIMES

 ACCEPT. OBEY. SERVE.

This book had been on my shelf for quite a while. Recommended by a friend and selected to be part of Waterstones Book Club I finally decided to pick it up and read it. I have to say it was bizarrely amazing.

the bess laline paullWritten from the bee’s perspective we are introduced into the life within a bee hive. The book follows the story of Flora 717, a bee born a sanitation worker, the lowest on the hierarchy. She is only fit to clean the hive and dispose the dead bodies of her fellow sister bees . Flora is too big, too dark, she’s ugly by bee standards. However, she is strong, a quick learner, curious and can speak, while others of her caste are mute. Different is not usually allowed in Flora’s world. Any bee that is different or deformed is destroyed by the fertility police (Deformity is evil. Deformity is not permitted). A Sage, a high-ranking priestess, intervenes and saves Flora from death as she sees something in her, something different. Here is where the story of The Bees begins. From then Flora is moved to another ‘sector’ of the beehive, the Nursery.  Here, Flora is assigned to feed the newborns by producing Flow, royal jelly if you would like. From the Nursery, Flora moves on to become a forager, collecting pollen (food) for the hive.

Here Laline Paull gives us the wonderful scenes of the world outside the hive. We the readers can see the world through Flora and meet some interesting characters along the way; the wasps (the bees’ horrible cousins), the scheming spiders luring bees or any other insects to their beautiful woven silken webs, dirty flies who are not liked by anyone as they are seen as filthy and the lowest of the low of insects. Once Flora returns to the hives, she enters the dance hall where she explains to her fellow sisters of what she’s been up to, where she has been and what she has seen.

Flora lives to accept, obey and serve her beloved holy mother, the Queen. But, when her instinct to serve is overwhelmed by a fierce and deeply forbidden maternal love, she breaks the most sacred law of all…. only the Queen breeds! What happens to Flora next is an adventure you my fellow book lover will have to discover yourself.

Other than Flora and the rest of the female bees who dominate the beehive, we are introduced to the male bees who I believe add a bit of humour to the book. Preening, strutting drones who are hilarious; ”Think now of those foreign princesses waiting for us. How fatigued, how impatient for love must they be? Would you bind them in chastity a single moment longer? Or shall we fill our bellies with the strength of this hive, then free them with our swords?”.  I have to say the were interesting to say the least!

The Bees is a very strange good book. At first it was a bit weird reading a book from a bee’s point of view and being introduced to her world but slowly you get used to it and become part of that family praying you don’t get on the wrong side of the Sage priestesses. Laline Paull captures the suffocating and claustrophobic feel of the hive, as well as shows us how the bees are able to communicate with each other. The words ”Accept, Obey, and Serve” are echoed throughout the novel. It’s the guiding law and religion of the beehive.

Paull’s extensive research into the bees can be seen throughout the novel and you cannot help but be fascinated by the story and become engrossed with the life of a beehive, from feeding the newborns Flow to the dance hall where Forages dance their flight for their sisters.  After finishing the book I saw bees in a different light. I was sitting in the garden the other day and a bee was flying around, The Bees came instantly to mind and made me wonder whether I was looking at a forager. I definitely recommend this book to anyone. It is a very good read. Enjoy!

Demy no bleed.indd

 

 

The Kite Runner- Khaled Hosseini [Review]

“For you, a thousand times over.”

The Kite Runner. What a heartbreaking story.

It tells the story of Hassan and Amir, two friends who are as close as brothers and great at flying a kite. The two young boys live in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. The book starts with Amir, a grown man, living in America and through him we go back to when he and Hassan were 12 years old in Kabul. We get to know the way of life in Afghanistan, the local kite-tournament (a popular Afghan pastime) and how everything changes when war comes to Afghanistan and the country becomes a dangerous place. the kite runner

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant whereas Hassan is the son of their servant. Despite this, the boys are as close as brothers, both lost their mothers when babies and were nurtured by the same woman. Their fathers also grew up together and were as close as brothers. Hassan is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste, and usually gets a lot of abuse from other Afghan children especially Assef, a known bully amongst the children. Amir during this story commits an act of betrayal towards his friend Hassan, which will haunt him for the rest of his life and have to live with that guilt. During the war, Amir and his father are forced to flee Afghanistan for America. Thus The Kite Runner becomes the story of Amir’s journey for redemption and a way to ‘set things right’. He has to return to Afghanistan to make ‘things right’ as it were. On this journey Amir makes new friends, reunites with old friends but also with old enemies.

The story is fast paced and never dull. When I started reading this story I could not put it down. I needed to know what will happen and will Amir ever find peace. I feel for Amir, love Hassan’s loyalty towards Amir and the sacrifices he makes for the family. I hate Assef and his horribleness. I want to shake Amir’s father and tell him that he needs to accept his son for who he is and to show him that he loves him. You get so much invested in the characters that you can’t do anything but read, read and read. We are introduced to the world of Afghan life, strange and fascinating and devastating when war breaks out.

The Kite Runner tells the unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant. It is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country torn by violence and war. A gripping and emotional story of betrayal, forgiveness and redemption. The Times have accurately stated that ”Khaled Hosseini  is a truly gifted teller of tales. He’s not afraid to pull every string in your heart to make it sing”. It is a powerful novel that has become one of my treasured books, one-of-a-kind classic as others have described it. Definitely give it a read and see for yourself. I won’t lie, you will be heartbroken by the end and it will stay with you for a few days/weeks BUT it is so worth it. I even cried while reading it. Do put it on your ‘To Read’ list!

‘The shattering first novel by Khaled Hosseini… a rich and soul-searching narrative … a sharp, unforgettable taste of the trauma and tumult experienced by Afghanis as their country buckled’ (Observer)

‘A gripping read and a haunting story of love, loss and betrayal. Guaranteed to move even the hardest heart’ (Independent)