Irene Koronas is an Orthodox poet, painter and poetry editor at Wilderness House Literary Review. She has spent her whole life capturing the very essence of life and its extra-ordinariness of even simple moments.
My life begins with lots of people, relatives, apartment dwellers, neighbors from all parts of the world, store keepers selling penny candy and stray cats. Mother let us have kittens. Because we lived on main street the kittens were often run over by cars. We never owned an automobile and TV came after everyone else seem to have one with nic-nacs on top. Scarcely a day went by without mother saying we can't afford 'that'. I spend time alone, listening to classical music. Mother bought records on sale at the grocery store. Creative seeds were planted early. Music, icons in church, books from the library, father's radio in his cobbler shop tuned to rhythm and blues, all lent to my early drawings of trees.
Our formica table top became a desk until supper was served. Bread began the meal. Salad with fetta cheese ended the meal. Grandmother always blessed herself three times before and after eating. Her two fingers and thumb together touched her forehead, stomach, right shoulder, left shoulder. For me prayers were done as I lay on my bed waiting to fall asleep.
When I was about eleven years old mother took me to Far Rock Away New York to visit her cousin who was very sick. The adults sat in the warm kitchen talking. After their usual conversations mother brought me into a small bedroom. Cousin lay on her bed propped up with pillows. Her room glowed. Red and orange glass with votive candles on small alters or hanging brass candle holders hung from the ceiling. The incense swayed me. I felt transformed. My head swayed. I swooned. Icons. Small icons surrounded the entire room. Darkness became light. I remember the whispers between mother and cousin while I stood in wonder.
From that day, colors found a place on my canvases, and on paper. I tried to write about what I saw but it took years before I could express the image. Holy saints and Jesus depicted in written form. I fell in love. Poetry took shape when I turned twelve. Mostly I pleaded on paper. Human love. I didn't know how to write about anything but myself. There is little about myself that could satisfy even a fly but I keep trying to form a poem.
Being an Orthodox Christian helps me to be accountable in my creative endeavors. An endless flow comes from the creative nothing that I am privy to and blessed by. I consider each painting on paper with pen and various other materials, my prayer work. Not extemporaneous prayer but Patristic prayer, in that the abstractions follow tradition. The abstractions depicted on the clothing on an icon, allows freedom to exist within the boundary lines. Writing poetry with an ear toward the music found in our psalms:
wheat berry memory
my knees sore from repentance
an immense distance carries all I have been
every place purchased or taken
exaggerations planted in dung heap
I fail at simple gestures
because the living room has no couch
old kitchen pots cooking down asparagus for soup
wet dresses pinned on line
my whimper in Wind
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