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A journey in the aftermath: snake charmers: a cycle of twenty poems.


Byline: Reprint from Subterranean Blue Poetry

Title of Book:  snake charmers: a cycle of twenty poems

Author: Kristjana Gunnars

Publisher: above/ground press

Date of Publication: 2016

Pages: 30


“go on take the cake,
go on take the cake . . . “
- from Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd


A song of the Middle East, a song of markets in the desert, snake charmers: a cycle of twenty poems, presents a journey, perhaps in the aftermath of a great love. Kristjana Gunnars is a Poet, Artist, Novelist, Translator, Essayist and Educator born in Reykjavik, Iceland. Her family emigrated to the United States, she married and they moved to British Columbia. In 1980 her marriage broke; her works are noted for themes of dislocation, exile, loss, desire and longing. She is a retired professor of English from the University of Alberta. (emeritus)

This fantastical poetry in New Age Renaissance, has Imagist influences, yet rolls through landscape in full, rich cycles. The image cycles are descriptive based in nature and travel in long, slow motions. It is a story of Casablanca or indeed Andalusia, desert places haunted by rosemary, saffron, lavendar, orchids, jasmine, fig trees, the river and more, and perhaps memories of love. The romance of earth beauty, in revolving images is presented as if she is walking through a Middle Eastern Market, or traveling in a car, watching. As if she is somehow disembodied, an observer, in the aftermath, creating poetry through her observations and a deep Zen, of wisdom, the sorrow of a sage. The creation of art in the long silence, perhaps in her wandering she is lost in the crucible of time. In a certain cast of sunlight, perhaps she is walking in the post apocalypse village, that longed for place of peace.

"the brilliance of the flower

“something that goes beyond advice, but does not reach the point of
being law . . . .”
- Candido Mazon

“while I was gone the Saharan light changed,

everything darkened, the sunrays fall

slant onto the mud brick walls and scalloped ceilings,


the whole sky is still, as if arrested

without movement, without clouds, hardly

even sky at all, and the crowned ochre dome,


the star in its eight directions, and its tears,

a quiet pool to mirror the honeycomb ceiling,

the plane trees, the seasons, still overlap,


still point into the air, but from further

away, and the acacia trees have grown

taller, they straddle the walls like fugitives.


while I was gone, and I have been gone from you

a long time, long enough for silence -

for silence to extend its tenacles into emptiness,


where life is an art, life itself is the art:

seven days, seven planets, seven petals -

stars inside stars inside stars -”

Poet Gunnars speaks five languages, on coming to America at 16 years she also learned English. Learning a new language is difficult, a test of memory and new semiotics of understanding. The quest into silence is full, filled with longing, perhaps the unsettling feeling of estranger, poetry, a celebration of new lands, the character of “outsider” with new eyes, the exile from home.

The Poet’s aloneness is juxtaposed with images of great beauty, as if in forgiveness, the world, although a foreign country, turns into an arrival, the poetry a place of healing in the Spirit.

“those who live

“The exposition of the ‘perfect life’”
- Jean Cassien

bird cages without a single bird

palm trees in white pots, multi-

patterned rugs and white blanched rocks


rocks of chalk, and suspended toy airplanes

poised for descent at all times

all things slanted, bent, crooked


on the way over, down, to the side


the perfect life cannot be had

the perfect life is not in your hands

the perfect life is in the thought you think


the sundance yellow clay under your feet

the bleach-white sky above your head

the long, long march from door to door


the carpet is long because the hallway is long

the doors are tall because the ceiling is high


I will go through the small door inside the big door

I will light my home with the open airplane

I will cook my rice under a stone arch


there is a price on all things beautiful

there is a cumbersome price on all things perfect

Great wisdom weaves in and out of sunlight, a beautiful, imagist, holistic women’s lament in the vein of W.B. Yeat’s Sailing to Byzantium. A story of a long journey in celebration, a brilliant offering of the New Age Renaissance, snake charmers: a cycle of twenty poems by Kristjana Gunnars.

Available at above/ground press.

Genre: Poetry, New Age, Women's Literature





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