BOOK REVIEW: 'Unveiling the Mind': Poems by Chicago Writer Beatriz Badikian-Gartler Reach Out to Readers

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

I like to think of poetry as open-heart surgery; the poet opens his or her heart and out comes words and images to comfort or disturb you.

Sometimes the comforting is disturbing, but that's what poetry is all about to me: a crystalizing of thoughts and ideas that rearranges everything.

BOOK REVIEW: 'Unveiling the Mind': Poems by Chicago Writer Beatriz Badikian-Gartler  Reach Out to Readers
Artwork by the author
 

I found this true in Beatriz Badikian-Gartler's new poetry collection "Unveiling the Mind" (Pandora Lobo Estepario Productions, 78 pages, $13.50, available from Amazon.com).

The poems in this collection are all in free verse, so don't expect anything that looks like one of my all-time favorite poems, Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard". (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173564).

This poem from 1751 has contributed titles to books by the likes of Thomas Hardy ("Far From the Madding Crowd") and motion pictures that will live forever: "The Paths of Glory," directed by Stanley Kubrick.

It's almost impossible to review a book of poetry and do it justice, but I'll compromise by reprinting one poem in its entirety and advise my readers to get this book and let the open-heart surgery do its work: 

Throbbing

The vein that hammers blood and pumps

blue, pulsating.

The head

that misbehaves, that rebels and 

goes her own way.

The knife

of light and sound, stabbing

behind the eyes.

The throbbing of blood inside the vein inside the head.

And I

crave silence, 

darkness, 

some kind of peace.

                                                             * * *

 

At the end of this review I'm including my 2005 review of her novel, "Old Gloves"

Beatriz Badikian-Gartler
Beatriz Badikian-Gartler

 

About  Beatriz Badikian-Gartler

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a long time Chicago resident, it's no wonder Beatriz is a world traveler.

She earned her doctorate in creative writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago and has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants in the language arts.   Recently, Badikian-Gartler has been a faculty member at Chicago's Roosevelt University , the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Newberry Library where she teaches literature, writing and women's studies.  Today she teaches at Northwestern University in Evanston, and was recently named one of 100 Women Who Make a Difference by Today's Chicago Woman magazine. Her website: http://www.bbgartler.com/

                                                          * * *

 

My review of her novel "Old Gloves"

Sept. 12, 2005

 

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Old Gloves’ Spares the Words, Delivers Vivid Portrayal of Last Century’s Atrocities

 

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen

 

Huntington News Network Book Critic

 

Hinton, WV (HNN) – Coming across four pairs of old gloves that her mother gave her in preparation for yet another trip, Alicia in Beatriz Badikian Gartler’s “Old Gloves: A 20th Century Saga” (Chicago: Fractal Edge Press, 160 pages, $15; available by order at bookstores or from Amazon.com) reflects about her tumultuous life so far – she’s still in her 20s – and the even more tumultuous life of her father, Greg and her mother, Libby as Greg and Libby leave Chicago in 1978 to return to Greece.

Alicia is tired of moving and has found a new life in the very cosmopolitan city by the lake. She was born in Argentina in 1952, following the 1951 emigration of Greg – then known as Grigoris -- and Libby – called Elefteria (Greek for “liberty”) from Greece to Buenos Aires.

In Argentina, the Armenian refugee Grigoris – he was Krikor in Turkey when he and his family endured a forced march to be evacuated along with hundreds of thousands of other Greeks and Armenians in one of the 20th Century’s many ethnic removals – becomes Gregorio and his wife becomes Libertadad – Spanish for “liberty.”

Alicia is Greek and Armenian and Argentinean and now she’s a Chicagoan in a city that has become a refuge for many nationalities. Gartler’s novel reads like a memoir and I suspect there’s more than a little of the author in the character of Alicia. Beatriz Badikian-Gartler was born in Argentina and has taught literature at a number of Chicago universities, including Roosevelt University, University of Illinois – Chicago and DePaul University.

I can relate to Alicia’s – and Gartler’s -- love of Chicago: Both of my parents were first generation Chicagoans whose parents were ethnic refugees from different parts of the Russian Empire. Chicago is part of my DNA and was my first love among big cities, my home for several years after college and a place I return to annually for cultural fill ups. Even as I write this, I’m preparing for my annual train journey to Chicago.

Alicia’s dad is a difficult person to live with, a man who finds brief satisfaction in a job, only to become restless, looking for another country to explore. He endures life in German-occupied Greece in World War II, always fearing that his communist leanings will result in his capture by the Germans and their right-wing Greek collaborators.

Krikor-Gregoris wants to go to Mexico, a favored destination of European communists, but the family can’t get permission, so they immigrate to Argentina, a relatively sparsely populated nation that has attracted Jews, Armenians and especially Italians. Alicia is happy in Argentina, with a circle of girlfriends and is mortified at the thought of being uprooted to move to the U.S. Restless Greg tries New York City and the Los Angeles area before finally settling in Chicago.

The author’s forte is crafting vivid portraits of her characters in sparse but expressive language. Alicia is thwarted in her desire to study literature in Argentina. Her increasingly bitter father wants her to work to add to the meager income of the struggling family.

Beatriz Badikian-Gartler follows in the steps of Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov, expressive prose stylists for whom English was a second language.

Flashbacks to 1907 recount the death marches of ethnic Greeks and Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks; especially poignant is the journey Alicia’s maternal grandmother Evgenia and her husband Odysseas from interior Turkey to the evacuation point on the coast. Gartler vividly describes the horror of the march, which prefigured marches of Jews by Nazis during World War II.

Similarly Greg, then called Krikor, undergoes similar horrors in 1922 when his father Artin is arrested and the family endures a death march. The atrocities committed by the Turks against the Armenians are well documented, but most people don’t realize that ethnic Greeks living in what is now Turkey were subjected to what later generations would call “ethnic cleansing.”

“Old Gloves” displays a remarkable range of emotions for such a short book. 

By turns it’s humorous and horrifying, but there’s always hope that better things are on the horizon. I look forward to the continuing saga of Alicia in the Windy City.

Publisher’s web site: www.fractaledgepress.com

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