Wednesday, 23 November 2011

In Focus (Vol 8, No 3)

In Focus is "a quarterly magazine on literature, culture and the arts in Cyprus" and is published in Nicosia by The Cyprus PEN Centre and Armida Publications. Its current issue reproduces the feature on my work originally published in January for 3:AM Magazine's 'Maintenant' series: an interview conducted by Steven Fowler, accompanied by five poems.

In Focus features fiction, poetry, artwork, essays, reviews, interviews and non-fiction pieces. Some of the material is very good - an interview with a maker of theatre masks from a few issues ago springs to mind. But it is of a conservative bent, and with a tone that can appear overly formal, or sentimental.

Editor Panos Ioannides has published work of mine before, and I'm grateful that he has sought our permission to bring the feature to the attention of the magazine's readers. But it's impossible to ignore that a lot of what it publishes is at odds with the gist of what I say in the very interview it reproduces - or with what I hope my work represents. For example, in another interview from the current issue, with the singer Alexia, which pointedly takes place in the city of Ammochostos/Famagusta (since 1974 standing north of the Cypriot divide) there's the following exchange:

ALEXIA: Let's see what song is played at the beach bar of the new tenants.
MARIOS (interviewer): Whatever it is, I hope they won't stay for much longer and that soon we'll get to hear some Greek tunes instead... perhaps some of your music!
ALEXIA: Thank you Marie! Yes, let's hope so!

Then, in an essay that offers a reading of the poem 'The Stone' by Sophocles Lazarou - an intriguing-sounding poem which I'd like to track down and explore further - the essay's author Andreas Petrides writes:

"And if I express myself in this almost dithyrambic tone, dragging out a poem from the past, it is because my soul thirsts every so often for one, albeit fleeting, return to good poetry, beyond the suffocating grip of the modernistic or philosophical, without real inspiration, contemporary constructs."

It's not the case that In Focus juxtaposes differing approaches to writing and art, or contrasting sociopolitical attitudes, to offer a critique or a questioning of each position: I find the majority of what it publishes tending towards the nostalgic, the self-consciously poetic, the insularly nationalistic. Which makes the reproduction of the feature hard to interpret.

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