Siren of the Heart, by Gad Ben-Meir, The Publishing Hub 2022, was launched by Tina Giannoukos during Melbourne Jewish Book Week 2022 at the Glen Eira Town Hall, Caulfield on May 29.
It is an honour and delight to launch Gad Ben-Meir’s first poetry collection in English, Siren of the Heart (Westphalia Press, 2020), which is the seductive call of love we all long to hear. It is a rich collection filled with lively poems about love, its joys and tribulations, as well as judicious poems about life, its challenges and rewards. They are poems born out of a long engagement with and commitment to enjoying life at its fullest, without hesitation or regret, in which the care of friendship, family, and community is sacred.
The poet takes pleasure in all his relationships and approaches with remarkable compassion the suffering of others. Erotic love is to be treasured, its delights, whether physical or spiritual, welcomed. Love in Siren of the Heart is the longed-for experience, in which the lover is always ardent and the beloved forever inspiring. For this poet, what more beautiful joy can there be on the journey of life than love offered and received? Celebrating such joy, the poet says ‘In the Deep of the Night’:
I heard your voice
I felt our passions
To flood our veins
With amorous fire;
The melodious sighs
Will wrap us shining
And the shimmering joy
New sparks inspire
Gad has already published two collections of poetry in literal Arabic and one book of songs in the Egyptian dialect. His sensual enjoyment of language permeates Siren of the Heart. In lines that sing with the pleasures and delights of love, the poet considers its amorous joys and sacred gifts. In Siren of the Heart, the poet embraces the siren call of love and its promise of, if not redemption, then aliveness. The exultation of Siren of the Heart is that love enriches the spirit with its joys. In these playful lines from the opening poem, ‘Glowing Rapture’, the lover sweetly entices his beloved with the delights of sensual love that conceals spiritual fulfilment:
Ennoble my feelings, call me Darling
The word sparks a glowing rapture
And makes each day a new adventure.
My dreams with yours shall combine
And our souls gracefully entwine.
I’ll wrap you with my shy desire
And embrace your caressing fire
Of that, my love, I’ll never tire.
Nor is love in Siren of the Heart a matter only between joyous lovers, its most obvious beneficiaries and actors. Instead, love is sketched in all its material and spiritual forms, a lover’s praise as much as lament. In a poetic universe where its joys are supreme, the casualty is love. In the poem, ‘My Smiling Angel’, the poet expresses a familiar distress:
Away you flew too far my love
And left my heart beseeching;
My yearnings burst the sky above
Your glowing stars entreating.
Fly back to me, my smiling angel,
Whisper your love and light the candle.
Such poignant poems are born of the poet’s long observation of life’s grief-stricken moments, in which duplicity reigns, yet hope remains. In the poem, ‘Love Strangled’, the poet writes:
If ever you feel regret, recanting
Go back to him, naked, if he’s alive;
He’ll take you to the woods new love hunting
With gaping wounds and sullen, staggered drive.
Some of the most tender poems are the poet’s reflections on worldly life and the legacy of human action. In ‘The Final Ring of Life’s Bell’, the poet says:
Awaiting the final ring of life’s bell
Wondering what have we left at the altar of sorrow?
What gain we reaped in shuffling through the gloom?
What blessed things we leave for tomorrow?
The poet’s celebratory offerings to friends rejoice in the pleasures of friendship and community that are another kind of love. Or there is the memorial commemoration of a dear friend or family member. In the poem, ‘In Memory of Prof. Shmuel Moreh’, the poet offers the long hope of memory as salve to the pain of the loss of a dear friend:
The praise of your achievements you cannot hear
Time cannot efface nor the seasons wither.
Go for a joy ride through this wonderful ode to love in all its articulations, remembering along the way the poet’s eternal promise and joyous deliverance in the poem, ‘Blessed Souls’:
Not you shall I ever forget,
Or lose my patient hope,
Each dawn, each crimson sunset,
I shall with you elope.
Congratulation, Gad, on such a wonderful collection.
– Tina Giannoukos
Tina Giannoukos is a poet, writer, critic, editor, and teacher of creative writing. She has published two collections of poetry. Her second collection, Bull Days (Arcadia, 2016), was shortlisted in the 2017 Victorian Premiers Literary Awards and longlisted for the 2017 Australian Literature Society Gold Medal. She was editor-in-chief at Melbourne Poets Union, publishing the Blue Tongue Poets and Red-bellied Poets chapbook series. She has taught creative writing at the University of Melbourne and academic writing at the Beijing University of Technology. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in creative writing from the University of Melbourne.
Siren of the Heart is available from https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0856WWRML?ref_=k4w_oembed_pmU8GGBJKRip6q&tag=kpembed-20&linkCode=kpd