Franci Louann’s Argentina Poesia (Ekstasis Editions, 2020) blossoms with delightful poemoirs, a term she coins to define her unique blend of travel memoir and poetry. Her exquisite insight into the heart of South American culture offers readers that same connection, inviting us firsthand into Argentinian life. “It always felt like we had come home,” Louann says in the introduction.
Both narrative and mystical at once, Argentina Poesia is sunny, alive and honest through a finely woven motif of colour and flowers. The bright cover photo of the author and her partner, José Tolosa Martins, posing with cutouts on an azure background sets the celebratory mood we find in Louann’s unique poems, a full-length collection that delights the senses. She’s a poet who finds a delicate array of artistry in every experience, from her first encounter of “jasmines just discovered” to a “rainbow of beach umbrellas,” bringing the scents and scenery of Argentina into our living rooms. The book reads as if we’ve arrived in Buenos Aires with the narrator, inhaling layers of the perfume of “white on white on white” jasmine flowers, as bustling, diverse scenes burst forth.
Like curtains opening to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, rich with the vividness of juxtaposition, the flora of Louann’s well-crafted verse establishes a paradox of timelessness with lines like “a young man sleeps in a doorway/ at the orchid store, they are filling a taxi with flowers” and “jacarandás—tiny purple trumpets blanket plazas/ pigeons hide in dark branches,” from “Scenes from Buenos Aires, 2007.” The immediacy of “a kiss on Córdoba—young lovers, spring afternoon” is contrasted poignantly with later stanzas brimming with the depth of despair, as Louann acknowledges the “Monument for the Victims of Terrorism by the State by the wide brown river, where some disappeared.” Her captivating description gives readers a sense of urgency with scenes like “narrow sidewalks on back streets/ walking is like the tango,” conveying not only literal, picturesque detail, but also metaphor for the political history citizens have endured.
Yet wholeness is created through her emphasis on the present, like spring flowers in a graveyard, blessing heartache with the blossoming of new life in poems such as “Café Tortoni, 2002,” resplendent in visuals like “…thick hot chocolate/ poured from copper pitchers/ with long wooden handles/ here in South America’s oldest café/ we marveled at stained glass windows/ antique light shades, dark wood/ black and white tiled floors…”
Argentina Poesia is an engaging memoir bringing Argentinian skies and shoreline to light through the poet’s senses. Louann’s well-woven imagery through fifteen years of travel carves a unique cultural experience of being a Canadian in Argentina, how each moment tastes, slowed down and savoured. Her poems culminate in her ability to bring readers with her, as though we are living each sunlit moment in the nuances of life at the centre of South America. Louann doesn’t shy away from truth – she just pushes deeper for beauty. Through years of turning perception into poetry, she offers perspective, laying out an order to a multidimensional country, taking readers on an invigorating tour, focussed on orchids, sunlight and time. Not that gunshots and injustice don’t play out through the tumult and randomness of chaotic big cities, but that Louann reminds us to visit the flower shops and beaches because that is the art of living. Every page delights with new sights and sounds, inviting readers to breathe, pause and take in the world as we are and it is, each moment intersected with current thoughts and meditations, stored in a corner of time.
About the Author
Franci Louann had her first fine publications in Dorothy Livesay’s last anthology, Women’s Eye: 12 BC poets in the 1970s. Her name was then Fran Workman. In 2010, Lipstick Press published her Beach Cardiology. There have been awards for Franci’s poetry and for her decades of volunteer work in this area. She is thankful for many falling-off-her-chair moments. Franci was born in Stratford, Ontario. Her father was a British Home Child, her mother third-generation German-Canadian. From 2002 to 2017, Argentina was Franci’s “second home”. Poems about these latter experiences could fill another book. Find Franci Louann on the web at francilouann.com. (Author photo credit: Janet Kvammen)
- Ekstasis Editions, 2020
- ISBN 978-1-77171-406-8
- 166 pages