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Posted by : cj on Monday, December 06, 2004 - 11:21 AM
Chicago Poetry Archives: Click Headlines Mapmaker Revisited: New & Selected Poems by Beatriz Badikian
Gladsome Books, 200 S. Michigan Avenue Suite 240, Chicago, IL 60604
ISBN 0-9641825-1-3
Price: $10.95

The cover of Beatriz Badikian's newest poetry collection shows a multi-colored map projected over the blurred image of the poet. The striking cover gives the impression that the author is emerging from the roads and oceans and cities where she has lived and traveled, and this is the message of these graceful and captivating poems. As she says in her title poem, "I measure the earth with words."

Badikian names as mentor and ancestor the geographer and librarian Eratosthenes. She aims for a poetry that is "simple and accurate." But "simple" does not mean simplified: Badikian's many-faceted work encompasses the streets of Buenos Aires where she grew up and the streets of Chicago where she resides, the complex roads of the psyche and the direct lines of erotic desire, the passion for social justice and the craving for home. The book includes poems in English and Spanish. The references range from Aristotle to Ntozake Shange.

Badikian's poems concern both politics and the emotional life of a woman; there is no contradiction between the two. In "Elements for an Autobiographical Poem" she says: "-my father told me / I would be a speaker / a leader / a fighter / - my mother dressed me in red / my hair was too straight for her..." Growing up in Argentina during a time of violent repression, Badikian speaks directly about politics without the self-consciousness of many North American poets, as in the poem "Argentina, 1978:" "I'd like to go home / sit in my neighborhood square / chat with the mothers / watch children run around the fountain / with only the danger of water / But my town is silent now..."

The collection charts a map of Badikian's travels. While some of these poems are brief vignettes, others -- especially those set in Italy and Greece -- are lyrical and poignant. Badikian is always on the move, encountering new people and places while missing some former lover or previous home. She can pack a lot of these feelings into a simple image: "on the way to Kamini the full / moon glows blue on the walls... / you hold me around / the waist and your cigarette becomes a lantern / against the night sky" ("Ydra").

Life for the migrant, immigrant or exile is a long series of disruptions, with memories that refuse to vanish. A peaceful morning in Chicago with a lover cooking, when "sun spills its light on the floor warming / his bare feet and thighs in the kitchen..." is contrasted with a memory of Buenos Aires where "they came one cloudy summer morning / for her neighbor across the street." For Badikian, the nearly-impossible search for home and peace is not just a personal statement but a truth of human experience.

Passion, history and friendship are Badikian's antidote to the difficulties of spiritual and physical travel. Lovers and friends fill these pages with warmth and humor. In "Two Husbands" she says "you are the pillow / where I rest my head / when the air around me / becomes too heavy / when my head is too small / to hold the sadness... you are everything at once / such shorthand!" In the erotic "Water Creatures," "I am pineapple / brown thorny shell: / diving suddenly into / its sweet-sour sea / you lick fingers / suck your lips / a silent river in your mouth / the explosion of an orchid / purple and shy."

The section titled "Womanscapes," moves between everyday scenarios of women's lives and a mythic vision. A creation story envisions the powerful goddess Akewa: "Akewa is a woman / she is the sun / she has the power to grow old / as well as young / she walks across the sky each day / a round full brilliant woman / powerful with warmth / with light..." The final section includes "Calendario," a poem showing Badikian's skill with inventive metaphor: "Monday is full / of holes... unresolved / as a broom in a corner... / Tuesday is a nun / without her habit... / Tomorrow / is Wednesday: why does Thursday always / follow?"

Two small notes: I love the page numbers designed as highway route signs, and, I wish the new poems were noted as such.

Mapmaker Revisited, a newly revised and expanded edition of her previous collection, Mapmaker, pursues Badikian's ongoing themes with added nuance and texture. Mapmaker Revisited is a journey I highly recommend. You will go back to this collection for many return visits.

Reviewed by Julie Parson-Nesbitt

**We hope you found the information on this page useful. needs your help. We are holding a fundraising drive in order to stay online. There are two ways that you can help: Click here to offer a financial gift or click here to order the new book by Press.

Note: Julie reviews "Mapmaker Revisited."

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