Great revolutions, in history, in any aspect or field, whether in social, economic or political frames, or in science, philosophy or knowledge, in learning or culture, in art or poetry, only happened when there are great minds, great wills and great souls striving to change things and matters and radicalize what comes, because of “habit: the great deadener of time” and familiarity, to be a common sense, a stagnant faith and an acceptable ‘fact’! Munir Mezyed’s Eros Sings in My Memory, is a great revolution in art, in language, in poetry, in the myth and metamorphoses beyond handling creative and genius metaphors. It is a new tome of poetry incorporating 45 mystic poems (or say ‘songs’ or ‘hymns’) overthrowing the familiarity of an ancient myth of Eros, initiating a new one and figuring out, instead, a transcendentalist sublime love of a new Adam to a new Eve in a new cosmos as two creators with no par of unprecedented passion. The Anthology as the title shows, borrows a general purified form (if not the name only, I dare say) of the myth of Eros and then it takes its own way independently far away from it. So, it is quite irrelevant if a comparative study is held between the two- Munir Mezyed’s Eros Sings in My Memory, on the one hand and the myth(s) of Eros with all its ancient versions regardless to their great classic compilers- Homer, Hesiod, Sappho, Parmenides, Plato, Ovid etc…; on the other hand, for each has its perspective, orientation and purposes confining and rather limiting it to its objective circumstances, time, culture, environment and poets/writers, included, together with their learning. This is because in Eros Sings in My Memory we won’t expect to read an imitated, adapted, or modified version of the ancient myth of Eros written, in imitation, in adaptation, or in modification, by a 21st-Century poet: Munir Mezyed. This is not so because this poet is a match to (if not he excels) them all in all; he has the opportunity to be a heir of the products and heritages of thousands-years-old civilizations, living in the era of the internet, cell phones, satellite TV-channels and a lot of other tools and devices of a modern up-to-date civilized society with all the potentialities offered now- while the ancient writers, poets etc…, were deprived of the chance; yet this is not a good reason for him to excel the others. So what is the main reason? I think that the poet, this is true, believes in his creativity, in his genius, in his language, in his imagination and in his extraordinary manipulation of the use of metaphors; in Munir Mezyed, the reader is stunned by the ability to move with the poet to different semantic domains, dissimilar to one another, unthought-of to be associated in any semantic relationship. He does it. He is the Poet of the Metaphor. And through it, metamorphoses of meanings, of figures, of worlds, of heaven, of wet dream, of fingers of light, of the honey of the desire, of the tears of imagination, of watery icons, of floating in the water of your breath, Habibti, flow and flow and flow; each time, they are changed in their form, in their domain and in their semantics and word clouds! And, in order not to go far away from the point, I say it is necessary if we have a glance on Eros as in mythology in order to follow the poet Munir in his creative workshop! Of course, Eros in mythology is considered a cosmogonic god of love, passion and fertility represented, not in Homer, but in Hesiod (though later chronologically) as a son of Chaos, paradoxically with no parentage at all- a child coming into existence by himself before Time starts to count. Eros is seen as the fundamental Primal Cause in the formation of the World and a unifying power of love that sets order and harmony together. He mingles all things together, from which Heaven, Ocean, Earth and the gods are born. However, the origin of the cosmic Eros as a principle of creation remains obscure but he is Omnipresent. Consequently, any epistemic interest in the universe must involve Eros and this is the metaphysical sense. But as a cult, Eros fostered by some urban centers of the Ancient Greek civilization, is considered an old product of a patriarichical mentality focusing, on one part, on masculine hegemony- that leaves no role for woman to play: only that of being a subject of pleasure and lust, sin and evil. On the other part, it pivots on Phallocentricity that not only worshipped the Phallus literally but also makes man vs woman as a sole male who controls and decides for every aspect in life and woman, of course, included. Such mentality is dated back to yet older times of pastoral and then agricultural phases of the religious thinking history as represented in the larger parts of Greek mythology and epics. Hence, the world of the myths is replete of characters- gods and goddesses, who love ‘for passion’ and love ‘for lust’; they conspire because of ‘love’ or ‘lust’; they hate because of ‘love’ or ‘lust’; they kill, do evil, wrong people, rape and abduct other people; they change their forms: metamorphose their shapes; they disguise; they lie and cheat; they take sides and are biased against this part or that part. This does not mean that Eros directs the desires and behaviors of these mythical gods and goddesses, celebrities and half-gods and controls their whims, minds and their fates in the mundane and even their afterlife worlds! This is true only in later epochs of Eros’s cv but not at the early stages of his coming into life which show his patronage fluctuating between Aphrodite and Athena. “The Homeric epics (8th BC) provide examples of satisfiable desire [in which] Eros commonly denotes a craving for food and drink while Eros as a sexual desire is controlled by the goddess Aphrodite”. In the Odyssey, which was “almost directed by the Virgin goddess of wisdom, war, and handicraft, Athena, the power of Eros is for the first time redirected toward goals beyond the sexual and even against it” as Eros was going under Aphrodite’s Patronage! Aphrodite, for example, saved Paris from the sword of Menelaus. She relieves his stress by causing him to desire Helen more than when he first saw her and snatched her from Sparta. Similarly, with the help of Aphrodite’s magical girdle that can fulfill any sexual wish, Hera makes Zeus feel a stronger love for her than he has ever felt for another woman, even Hera herself. But such patronage does not last for all the run. This is due to Athena’s role “in controlling Eros by leaving him unfulfilled as when she awakens young Nausicaa’s sexuality and uses her strong attraction to Odysseus to help him earn the Phaeacians’ sympathy, which is crucial for his survival, she inflames the hearts of Penelope’s suitors with Eros without any intention of satisfying it. On the contrary, Athena’s goal is to weaken the suitors just because she justifies their punishment!” In Hesiod (late 8th C. BC.), Eros is a primeval cosmic deity overpowering the minds of gods and humans emerging as self-born to spur procreation. Hesiod describes two love gods- Eros and Himeros (Desire), accompanying Aphrodite at her birth from the sea-foam. Some classical authors took these two gods as being born of the goddess at her birth or alongside her in the sea-foam where the pair flutter around the goddess in her conch-shell. In Greek lyric poetry, poets portrayed Eros as an influential god with a paradoxical character as in Sappho’s (7th C. BC.) poems that showed Eros with an oxymoronic character: a prevalent duality of sweet and bitter, of pleasure and pain, and of love and hatred. In Parmenides (5th C. BC.), Aphrodite made Eros the first of ALL the gods while in the writings of the Orphic religious movement (6th C. BC), Eros had been personified as Phanes, (being both female and male), who had initiated all creation. In Aristophanes (5th C. BC.), Eros hatched from a “wind-sown egg” born by Night. In Virgil’s Aeneid (1st C.BC), Aphrodite/Venus plays Athena’s guiding role in Aeneas’ journey using her son Cupid, to kindle erotic passion in Queen Dido and assure a warm reception for Aeneas at Carthage. Aphrodite/Venus makes sure the Dido’s sexual desire for Aeneas is fulfilled, at the price of Dido’s suicide later, when Aeneas abandoned her! In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, (early 1st C. BC), Cupid’s dark side is spotlighted while Desire got a creative force. Ovid created Apollo as burning with passion for Daphne who was hit by him with an arrow inflicting hate rather than exciting love! In works of art, Eros was associated with many positive and negative representations, that would either portray or garnish a typical image of a god appealing to the pure hearts of his lovers- images of a flower, a bird, a rose, a child, and sometimes even and adult young man. Or works would unconsciously tend to besmirch Eros with impurities and blemishes that do not go fit with a god self-devoted to Love and Passion as there are impure representations such as Eros as a wild beast, a cock, a ram, on the one hand. On the other hand, Eros was depicted sometimes as a playful boy; sometimes as a mischievous child; sometimes as a witty and avenging lover and most of the time, blind-folded armed with either a bow and arrows or a flaming torch. Moreover, the stories tell of abductions and rapes of innocent women. Perhaps, there was one exception as an attempt once made in history of art to bring Eros to Perfection and purify him off various idiosyncrasies different painters, sculptors and artists later added. The attempt was achieved by Praxiteles (c.350 BC)- the Athenian Sculptor; but discontinued ever since. Hence, a sublime image of a new Eros must be reconsidered proper to our modern times. And this is accomplished by this anthology in hand. Now, when we read Eros Sings in My Memory, we don’t find these absurdities of the ancients. So, what is left for us to mention? In fact, there is a lot! The Anthology lays out new premises for Lovers to initiate a relationship in a realm of their own based on the poetic word, i.e, when “the word becomes [their] house where the angels dwell and sing (p.40, hereafter p. refers to the poem number in the anthology), when the word sips the sacred charm from the fingers of light and melts in the poet’s ode (p.4) as it dissolves the sky, drop by drop, in the poet’s word cup (p.36), a woman travels in the memory of words (p.33) as Adam/the poet/lover beholds himself swimming (p.35) in her breast calling Isis to bring the Crucified Sun back to life to evolve, once again, in the word orbit (p.31)”. Through this passion only, Eve/the beloved become who she is! She- as entity: body and soul, mind and will, exists. Love makes a woman a woman, a female a female- Perfect Woman. “A woman scatters the seeds of creation (p.33) breastfeeding the chicks of word the milk of the poetic voice (p.41)”. Through this passion only, she breaks the traditional bonds of time and is created anew as the Lover’s lips feed or resuscitate her breast that is to perish of hunger, of aridity and barrenness as the beloved’s body still floats in a nebulous foam before Creation starts Being but for the miraculous act of Logos; Logos, here, in this context, is not the traditional Creative Word. Nay, it refers to the Creative Kiss of the Lips: Lips feed your hungry breasts The heat of passion And your body swims in the foam of sky Thus the mirrors of time break into pieces In the thrill of the light. (p.1)
This is an apostrophe- a direct discourse reflecting a kaleidoscopic image of a new Pre-Creation Myth reminiscent of those ancient myths that describe a creation of the universe from ex nihilo: a god living in a void doing some action that leads to the universe coming into being, in an amorphous state- chaos, foam or nebula. This is how the Egyptian creation myth as related in the Pyramid Texts goes on- creation from nothing: Atum is the first god who creates his brother and sister Shu and Tefnutm. According to the Greeks, the initial formless state of the universe is Chaos. Other myths involve a struggle between primordial gods, for example, in the Greek and Roman mythologies, there are struggles and bloody acts among gods, as it happened between Uranus and his offspring, ending in the death of Uranus at the hands of Cronus. This is true also with the Enuma elish, the Babylonian Myth of Creation written around 1100 BCE which begins with the universe in a foam-like state and also includes a struggle: When the skies above were not yet named Nor earth below pronounced by name, Apsu, the first one, their begetter, And maker Tiamat, who bore them all, Had mixed their waters together, But had not formed pastures, nor discovered reed-beds; When yet no gods were manifest, Nor names pronounced, nor destinies decreed, Then gods were born within them. (Dalley 233)
Apsu as the male- “the begetter” is the sweet waters, while Tiamat as the female- “the maker,” is the bitter, salt waters. The Babylonian god, Marduk, fights and kills Tiamat, the primordial goddess of the ocean. He cuts her body in two. One half becomes the sky, the other half the earth. So, at the first glance, there seems to be intertextuality between the old-established myths with all their several variations and different origins, on the one hand, and Mezydian Version of Eros Myth in Eros Sings in My Memory on the other hand: Habibti! Before the birth of water I was a dry sky When your lips touched its body It rained heavily Thus we became parents of the rain…(p.34)
The relationship between the two myths remains that of/in the name, only! Actually, Munir Mezyed devised his own mythopoeia of Eros in which there is no blood shed in his cosmos, no struggle occurred among his creatures, no evil seen, no sin committed, no beast-like deeds performed: Eve/the woman/the beloved/the female is neither a misbegotten creature thought of pejoratively, nor a serf living in ‘Harem’ deprived of freedom or a victim of a strong ruler; nor is Adam/the man/the lover a beast, or a victimizer or a lord looked to so arrogantly for no reason but for being masculine; nor is Love a sin, a crime, a taboo or a conspiracy! His Cosmos is tinged with harmony, order, love, and peace and memories. And what is a memory, that in the title- Eros Sings in My Memory? It is the “the stage on which the sky dances naked in imagination (p.16)”; “Memories are the vineyards from which the beloved bring the blue grape bunches of love to her lover so that the soul would squeeze them as divine wine that makes the imagination of Jinn drunk” (p.30); sometimes, “memories emigrate somewhere that makes the mysterious dream float in a sky more translucent than imagination” (p.19); sometimes, “the memories of both lovers are sitting in the light that falls from the eyes of God” (p.12); Sometimes, “The memory of the lover is [the locale] where Eros sings revealing…the secrets of creation as the Beloved’s lips touch the twigs of rain” (p.26). In such a fabulous and nebulous cosmos, the beloved Eve would listen to her lover’s voice that looks like “a cloud pregnant with honey in the hand of God/ Reciting the spells of creation” (p.13) as his words “are startled by a butterfly stuck in [his] breaths” (p. 3) while “the body of his ode is washed with the milk of desire which is the ecstasy of creation” (p.3); while “the verses are flowers…with nectars of words dripping out of them” (p.11). It is his ode that “let the words that sip the sacred charm from the fingers of light melt when the echo of silence mingles with the scent of God in the cup of the poet’s imagination” (p.4)- an “ode… a flower of creation that rains light to moisturize the lips of his voice” (p.14). It is this ode that “keeps shaking the branches of unseen/Till the flowers of eternity/ Fall heavily in the Lover’s way to his beloved” (p.22). So, in such an imaginary world, not only do the odes become “the beloved’s lips in which the sky is dissolved by the lover when the monks of love baptize their voices” (p.7) but also every item in his world becomes under the disposal of the Omnipresent poet/creator: let us recognize the ingredients of the Mezyedian mythopoeia through such a question: Who are the creatures or the inhabitants thronging his huge galaxy? The answer, partly, lies in this long list: the inhabitants are: temples, clouds, snow storms, lights, rains, dreams, roses, lotus, willows, milks, wings, mirrors, butterflies, boats, closets, gypsies, dawns, imagination, soul, heaven, prayers, desires, the voice of the beloved, passion, eyes, lips, blue Eden, grass, fingers, body, heaven, sun, death , Caesar, spoils, baptizing, fire, water, air, nectar, words, creation, words, tears, odes, breasts, thirst, hunger, rivers, breaths, lakes, seas, memories, emigration, farms, floods, dewdrops, foams, nymphs, sips, poetry, kisses, twigs, branches, trees, secrets, monks, embrace, dance, spring, winter, hymns, singing, wounds, the unseen, birth, habibti, swimming, dissolve, melting, nightingales, dryness, wetness, moisturize, sleep, human, femininity, seeds, cups, crystal, breastfeed, Isis, orbit, mud, chicks, mother, parentage, playful, forests, music, tones, drops, drip, night, travel, magic, read, threads, nests, sidrat al-muntaha, the ambrosia, meditation, flutter, silence, pleasure, voice, yell, roof, ecstasy etc….The list may go on and on. But these are only the vocabulary of his poems! They are words, words, words, just words! Dead words! So, what is missing? The missing is the life in the poems. The missing is the Poetic Voice. This is the second part of the answer. The missing is the amount of imagination haloing, hooding or capsulating these words. The missing is the kith and kin between them- the multifarious worlds among metaphors enlivening the poems. Here it lies the linguistic myth of and verbal metamorphoses beyond the creative and genius cuisine of metaphors which Munir Mezyed in Eros Sings in My Memory brews and prepares in his 45 poems! In fact, they shouldn’t be rendered as poems! Simply, because they are not so. They are songs! They are Sacred Hymns! They are musical tunes composed in the mental space of the poet’s/Lover’s impossible world before they are metamorphosed into just words jutted on paper! Still, there is something else missing- a reader does not confront gods or half-gods, goddesses or deities such as Uranus, Hera, Hydra, Io, Cacus, Bachus, Zeus, Adonis, Jupiter, Heracules, Apollo, Venus, Titans, Demons, Gorgons, Dido, Diana, Hecate etc… among the inhabitants in this Anthology in the manner they are crowded in the classic mythologies as in Homer, Hesiod, or Ovid and even Plato in Symposium. To Munir Mezyed, this is neither a defect nor a demerit or a problem in the way it would have been regarded so if Homer, Hesiod, or Ovid had passed these deities over. To classic authors, myths do not process without their natural ingredients- the divinities and their plots and the folklores behind; a myth is not a myth if it ignores totally the mythical celebrities while to Mezyed, their absence is a defiance, a merit and a work of genius! Why? Because he would resort to create his own myth without them, without their connotations, without the nuances of their presence, without their intrigues and shameful deeds, tastes, values and ethics to a 21st-century man who is neither at loggerheads with the waves of feminism, gender trends, postmodernism, pragmatics, stylistics, linguistics, globalization, nor with modernism, surrealism, expressionism, Christianity, Hinduism, Hellenisms and Islam etc…. He would erect his own myth out of lofty awareness of and mastery over his language, imagination and poetic tools. He picks all the potentialities of Metaphor in language. He even devises his own distinct metaphors and lives in the worlds metaphor can afford- the worlds of metamorphoses to serve one cause- the concept of Love seen through the eyes of a gentleman who works in Eros Sings in My Memory as a poet, a seer, an eye-witness of the-Pre-creation-and-After Worlds, a Lover and his Beloved, a narrator, a text-writer, a one-man chorus singer, a prayer reciter, a modern Eros, a Le-Mi’rage traveler in time and very close to God! These roles are among other metamorphosis the use of metaphors offers the poet/creator to do, to affect, to enact, to perform, to create and to love and love and love! Munir Mezyed in Eros Sings in My Memory has revolutionized the concept of Eros, part and parcel, and positioned himself in a great challenge vis–à–vis old-established Erotic notions once voiced, reshaped or remodeled after this myth of classic times written by the classic pillars of the Greek and Roman poets; a great challenge to the genre of poetry to create a new transcendentalist, sophist language with new creative experiences, images, and semantic domains. With this anthology, a new book on the art of Love is written; it is the Spiritual Kama Sutra and the Verbal Metamorphoses!
By Abdul-Settar Al-Assady
University of Basra/Iraq, Italian Magazine for Literature, VERBUMLANDIA.COM