This third edition, appearing thirty years after the prior edition, includes new poems and revised, edited versions of former poems. Translated by noted historian/author Robert Zaller, Fleshfire is the epitome of Lili Bita’s passion and art wherein Anais Nin said, “….Human life and myth are lived simultaneously.”
Any review almost seems redundant in light of the Translator’s Afterword, which states: “Eros is the presiding divinity of Lili Bita’s work. The notion of Eros….encompasses but far exceeds individual experience and specific relationships. Lovers are driven to each other by its tidal force, and what they discover is both terrible and exalting….”
That said, the writer’s poems are erotic but lyrically subtle, aesthetic yet concealing nothing in experience (historical, personal, and universal) elevated by a seasoned poet’s eloquent language. Lili Bita has never lost sight of her Greek heritage although offering more irony in this third edition.
In “Eurydice” the narrator says, “….I need force/to crush me/I need savage potions/that turn my veins to whips…./If you are not Orpheus,/O stranger,/you’d better not come to hell.”
Fleshfire defines and explores varied roles of Eros, including a woman who celebrates the necessity for her monthly cycle which mirrors birth, death. In “The Calyx,” a “woman makes love to an eagle.”
Lili Bita’s art is richly imagistic, filled with metaphors as in “Behold the Flesh of the Earth.”
….sweating, odorous, pustulent
immense in her nudity….
Behold my flesh….
I want my flesh
to become one flesh with the earth….
and as the earth
is gnawed and cradled
by the pleasure of the sea
so my flesh
tainted and rank
will take its remorse
to the river of ecstasy.
Actress and author, Lili Bita has performed classical and modern theatre on three continents. (See lilibita.com for details about her recent honors.) No wonder her work speaks to everyone and seems to embrace readers in such a poignant and masterful way.
Cover design by her son Kimon Rethis is a brilliant depiction of the artist as woman on fire with desire. Fleshfire is not merely flames but a conflagration that will burn eternally intense. Lili Bita is a national and international treasure.
Review by Rochelle Lynn Holt
(Author of The Planner: shifting the shadows, poem-novel forthcoming in 2016 from Scars Publications)