Published in In Focus, Sept. 2016.
Life does hang by that silver cord of maya that Avra Katsouri scales in this reflection on Existence. Beyond the delight of its images and language, her poetic offering affirms at once the profundity and the lightness of being. Upon Myth Life Hangs is given as a wholehearted hosanna to Creation.
Her work brings to mind Teilhard de Chardin’s poetic/spiritual testament Hymn of the Universe and Zen poetry. In the words of Zen Master Foyan: “It is as though you have an eye/That sees all forms/But does not see itself.” Especially in the poems that I have selected here, it would appear that the spiritual eye and the corporeal eye were momentarily unified. Together, they beheld the flutter of a butterfly, the wound of the flesh, the touch of a lover, the wings of the archangel, and yielded their impressions.
Dare I characterize this work as poetic Samadhi? Elegant poems they certainly are, but their distinctive quality is that they encapsulate moments of communion between matter and spirit. Such poetry can only come from being in a state of expanded awareness; it cannot be ‘invented’ or understood by the mind alone, and certainly not produced on demand!
I would propose that, despite her insight and grasp of esoteric concepts, Avra Katsouri arrived at these poems somewhat unaware of the psycho-spiritual workings within her; she stepped aside while another aspect of self put pen to paper. Not to say that the collection is the product of automatic writing or that it did not demand effort. Her inspiration is fastidiously chiseled, but this does not negate its origins – wholly of this world and yet not of it.
Some may characterize the collection as surreal, seeing it perhaps as a continuation of her earlier work. I feel that it speaks in a unique and authentic voice that defies classification for it is a product of inner alchemy. Moreover, Avra Katsouri has made a quantum leap in her ability to distil her inspiration. This is her finest hour, and a very fine hour it is indeed, not only for Cypriot poetry, but also for the type of poetry that speaks from the soul to the soul. One might argue that all poetry speaks from the soul or to the soul. The platitude may be true to an extent, but the soul impressions recorded here are realms apart from what one would ordinarily encounter in verse.
Her poems articulate those clusters of thoughts-feelings-impressions that float past one’s awareness during deep contemplative states when the illusion of matter begins to recede and only the beholder’s eye remains as the “one” becomes “no one,” the “where” becomes “nowhere,” and “time” becomes “no time.” Avra Katsouri caught glimpses of Existence through her inner eye, the eye of consciousness, the God particle within us all. From that prima materia she formed word-ideograms of immutable universal truths, not as philosophical exercises, but as hymns of love and reverence for the natural world, which she knows to be a manifestation of Source.
Her work upholds Teilhard de Chardin’s tenet that “we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.” She records moments when the veil of maya thins enough for us to almost remember that we are embodied spirits. Even if this level of reading is lost on readers, they will enjoy this collection. All they need to do is free-fall into the Poetry of the poetry itself, and their souls will respond to what lives and breathes on these pages.
Written by Irena Joannides