Writing & News

Reviews of And to Ecstasy by Marjon Mossammaparast

In Australian Book Review August 2022 issue by Jennifer Harrison

Marjon Mossammaparast’s earlier book, That Sight, won the 2018 Mary Gilmore award and was commended in several other awards. I was impressed by the way these new poems reach into spiritual traditions, such as that of the Bahá’í faith, yet also explore identity. This anchoring within worldly place (many poems footnote a particular place of action at the end of the poem) allows the poems their own meditative inspiration that sites experience at the centre of the poem, or at least signs off with ‘place’ as the poem’s postscript. Actuality of place seems to be almost an afterthought, a punctuation of memory.

Mossammaparast’s elegant poems create a whole from fragments of text and glimpses of meaning, reminding me of Anne Carson’s explorations of archaic fragments. Antiquity is a presence here but in no way overpowers the sense of a contemporary observant intelligence. Cultural record is presented with grace. One might choose any poem to quote, but here is ‘Interlude 3’ from the section ‘(Here)’ in entirety:

This afternoon moorhens, scratching in the leaves colossal humus

pelican and ibis, the tune of honeysuckle underfoot

electricity towers’ unbroken Morse

the limbic pose of a submerged log and Time, percolating

at the bottom of the lake, to date later to testify

Jells Park

Not exactly puzzle boxes, yet always mysteriously eloquent, the poems circle around certainty, creating eddies of meaning, a different kind of dream from Campbell’s: a metaphysical dreamfield in which the reader contemplates their own surroundings, questioning the way meaning is made, the scale of signification. The poetry seems minimalistic (the contents page lists only the three sections of the collection – ‘(There)’, ‘(Here)’ and ‘Field’) – but Mossammaparast’s simplicity is deceptively complex. The poems are layered with space, pause, and non-sequiturs that move in surprising ways, ‘light / The long pause, fretful and laden. / We are prone.’ (‘Interlude 2’).

References range from an exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, Farsi script, the poem ‘Seeing Things’ by Seamus Heaney, and Cai Guo-Chiang’s Terracotta Warriors. Punctuation is both formal and informal, and the poems embrace expansive imagery without compromising tautness. The impression is one of careful thought and text ‘placement’ as though every nuance matters. In the collection’s final section, Mossammaparast fashions a unique spiritual field from lines that travel between cosmos and grass, ‘in a field neither here nor there / where created things are / and absolutes concealed / planes, rolled up in plains /hiding the stem of the leaf / we climb and climb (‘Cosmos’).

The oscillation between small and large, grass and cosmos, space and particularity affords this poetry a perspective that is both beautiful and challenging. From poems that reference Sufi cosmology to a poem fashioned from the Islamic 99 Names of God in Arabic, this work impresses as a poetry of integration as well as scale.

In their awareness and acknowledgment of past writers and thinkers, Marion May Campbell and Marjon Mossammaparast appear to have similar preoccupations. Perhaps it is this depth of interrogation, as well as the finesse of the poetry, that Upswell finds deeply important. This is poetry of belonging, dislocation, and location. These two books are voiced so differently, yet both exude assurance, uncertainty, a belief in poetry’s centrality to cultural thought and definition. Where poetry directs language, we look and listen: ‘they warp and weft just to say I am’ (‘winds’).