The Tempest by Ilona Martonfi

Dancing through disasters, myths and legends, art and artists, as well as personal reflections on self and family history, Ilona Martonfi’s collection, The Tempest, is incredibly deep and also incredibly spare. Martonfi uses as few words as possible in many of the poems in this collection, leaving you to build your images from what she leaves on the page – and what words Martonfi gives you are so carefully, deliberately chosen that the art is twice beautiful. Once for the sheer brilliance of language use, and a second time for the beauty of the images evoked by her brief words. The Tempest is not for the faint of heart, or anyone not ready to be pushed and challenged in their engagement of poetry; I like to recommend more accessible poetry normally, but The Tempest defies me, quite neatly. It’s deceptively bold and vivid collection. My only regret is that the volume is so short, though it certainly provides ease in being able to reread it over and over again, as I already want to, knowing that I’ll find something different in it each time I go back to it.

Martonfi’s collection is divided up into five sections, each with a loose and connecting theme. The first section starts with a striking series of poems dealing with disasters and war: the ghettoes and concentration camps of Nazi Germany, the bombed areas of Japan in WWII, Chernobyl, and the US-Mexico border. The later sections have other threads connecting them; the second section weaves in a good deal of floral imagery, while the third section features myths and faraway locales. While I enjoyed poems throughout the collection, I was struck most by the ones in the first section especially, those treating the different landscapes marked by disaster with great tenderness and sadness. However, my favourite poem of the collection was in the fourth section, “Lockdown.” It’s a timeless poem, which could be set in our current pandemic times, or a long ago plague, capturing the isolation and the difficulty of living through a historical moment.

The Tempest is a sharp collection of poetry, thoroughly modern in its approach and subject matter, as well as its use of wildly different forms of poetry to share the many stories it tells. Anyone who is willing to take the challenge of reading it will be rewarded by the beautiful language and imagery, and find a good deal within its pages.

Ilona Martonfi is a Montreal poet born in Budapest. She is a writer, editor, creative writing teacher, and founder of the writing group, Rue Towers Writers. She is the author of the poetry books, Blue Poppy (2009), Black Grass (2012), The Snow Kimono (2015), and Salt Bride (2019), as well as seven chapbooks, Visiting the Ridge, Charivari, Magda, Adagio, Mud, Moth and Black Rain. Ilona is Founder and Literary Curator of The Yellow Door and Visual Arts Centre Reading Series and Argo Bookshop’s Reading Series. She is a recipient of the QWF 2010 Community Award. Ilona has published extensively in print and online literary publications. She was a Finalist for the 2007 Quebec Writing Competition. Her story, “My Daughter, Marisa,” was published in CBC Story Anthology III, In Other Words: New English Writing from Quebec (2008), and Ilona’s “Stories of Belonging” was shortlisted for Canada Writes in the adult category (2014). She was also a StepAway Magazine nominee for the 2018 Pushcart Prize for the poem “Dachau Visit on a Rainy Day”. The Tempest is her fifth poetry collection.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Inanna Poetry & Fiction Series (June 14 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 100 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771339063
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771339063

Alison Manley has ricocheted between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for most of her life. Now in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she is the Cataloguing and Metadata Librarian at Saint Mary's University. Her past life includes a long stint as a hospital librarian on the banks of the mighty Miramichi River. She has an honours BA in political science and English from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. While she's adamant that her love of reading has nothing to do with her work, her ability to consume large amounts of information very quickly sure is helpful. She is often identified by her very red lipstick, and lives with her partner Brett and cat, Toasted Marshmallow.