by Roger Zotti
Jean-Yves Solinga, in his Preface, explains the title of his latest volume, Landscape of Envies (Little Red Tree), this way: “The title … and indeed the source of this book can better be explained by defining ‘envies’ [as] not only or solely things and people we want or would like to possess, but also things and people we would like to change to our liking: for our own altruistic or selfish needs …”
Landscape of Envies is divided into two parts. Part one deals with “overpopulation, wars and violence,” the Gales Ferry resident says, while “the second half is much more ethereal.” Consider, too, that Jean-Yves poetry is not traditional: “In terms of the number of lines, for instance, I don’t write sonnets. I don’t write in rhymes. Sometimes, though, there is an interior cadence. I’m interested in form, but not in the sense that I try to fashion my lines to fit a certain form. My poetry is a combination of poetry and prose.” And be aware he can be breathtakingly blunt as in “Of Stardust and Morality”: “Corrosive Chemicals in the land. / In our souls. In our veins.”
“Behind the Curtain,” one of my favorite poems, was clearly inspired by Nobel Prize winner Albert Camus. When Jean-Yves writes, “Under the gratuitous absurd warmth of a friendly beach,” we’re reminded of a crucial scene in Camus’ novel The Stranger. Meursault – the narrator and main character whose mother has recently died – is walking on the beach and encounters an Arab who “drew his knife and held it up to me in the sun.” Fearing an attack, he shoots the man. “I had shattered the harmony of the day,” Meursault says, “… of a beach where I’d been happy.” The word “absurd” captures Camus and Jean-Yves’ existential vision of life’s absurdity, where an individual (like Meursault) is, in part, found guilty of murder because he was supposedly insensitive on the day of his mother’s funeral.
Another favorite is “Little by Little.” Written after Jean-Yves saw At First Sight (1999), he writes, “Such was the devastation of the landscape/ That he caught himself renouncing for the first time … / Sight.” In seventeen words he captured the film’s essence, which is the story of a blind man (Val Kilmer) who has an operation that restores his sight – and that’s when his troubles begin. “There’s something wrong,” Kilmer’s character says. “This can’t be seeing.”
In his introduction Jean-Yves writes, “I had feared I would not be able to rekindle that feeling of the first time after my first collection of poetry. I almost felt envious for that person that I was, then … Could I do it again?” The answer is, yes, he has done it again. In “Landscape of Envies” his existentialist/humanist vision is as original, diverse, and discerning as it was in his previous works, Clair-Obscur of the Soul and In the Shade of a Flower.
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