by Roger Zotti
“Clair-obscur of the Soul” (Little Red Tree Publishers) is a book of “unstructured poetry,” said Jean-Yves Solinga, the author. “I’m not at ease with the structure of traditional poetry. What I’ve done, and it has been done before, is poetic prose.” In his Introduction, Jean-Yves writes about his “choice of poetic form and lyrical structure.” He quotes Trepilov in Chekov’s “The Sea Gull:” “I’m coming more and more to the conclusion that it’s a matter not of old forms and not of new forms, but that a man writes, not thinking at all of what form to choose, because it comes pouring from his soul.”
In his Foreword, Michael Linnard tells us Jean-Yves “was born in Algeria of French parents and moved to Morocco [and] at 14 was abruptly…brought to America by his family.” Michael holds that Jean-Yves’ book “must be read by all those interested in a singularly unique view of life that may redefine the capacity of poetry to be what it should be: the art of expressing pure thought about the existential human condition.”
Reading Jean-Yves’ work exposes the reader to his culture (French) and presents different perspectives about American-Anglo Saxon culture. “It’s a learning experience for both myself and the reader,” Jean-Yves said. Jean-Yves hopes that his work will bring “the lyricism of one [culture] to the direct and acoustical strength of the other.”
Ray Bradbury said that writers learn when they write. Jean-Yves learned while writing his book was, he said, laughing, “How things change but stay the same. What you have to find is a different angle.” In other terms, anyone who writes a poem about war, “isn’t writing the first poem ever written about war,” Jean-Yves explained. “You have to add something personal to it.”
Of course, there were times when the Gales Ferry resident found writing “Clair-obscur…” difficult. “As it is that with most writing,” he said, “you have to take away. It’s almost like cooking. You have to reduce the sauce. With writing you have to get rid of wordiness, of an extra sentence.”
My favorite poem is “Mankind and Its Place” – especially when Jean-Yves writes: “…true heroes…have glanced without/ blinking into the enormous void of things…” They come back “from the precipice to face the rest of their individual lives…/without whining…without duplicity and especially without eternal laws…” The key, here, is that Jean-Yves’ heroes are courageous enough to survive looking into the abyss and then able to “[fashion] moments of solidarity and a mutual gift/ of happiness for the other…”
Jean-Yves said, “Clair-obscur in French is a technique of painting. In Italian it is called chiaroscuro” – that is, to quote from my Merriam Webster dictionary, the arrangement…of light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art.” A feast for one’s mind and heart, “Clair-obscur of the Soul” will be launched on July 17, at The Book Barn, 41 West Main Street, Niantic, from 6-8p.m.