ANC040/041: The Summer Flood Came Home & The Picture Show by Stefania Irene Marthakis
The actress wraps a blanket around / the actress’s curled body. / Flood watches the actress and the intertitles. / The story is in the folds. / The actress’s hand pulls the blanket over / the remaining exposed body. A familiar shape, / a black and white S lies on the bed.
Throughout The Summer Flood Came Home, Stefania Irene Marthakis’ cinematic descriptions invite readers not simply to watch the film as each poem unfolds, but also to take part in the scene. We are given stage directions drawing us further into the landscapes she creates: moments of shock and beauty in the domestic, from the neighborhoods and factories of Indiana. Her narrator acts as the director of a memory-film and we are an audience beyond the fourth wall. Marthakis weaves the complex dynamics of family, lineage, memory and communication, through the bodily experience of everyday objects, blending the deep mythology of a family and its layers of intergenerational trauma into the figure of a child.
The lens of Flood – an esoteric figure of a youth defined by interaction and exchange with specters real and imagined, fluid at different times in terms of flesh/age/gender/memory – a middle child, in terms of time, space, and dimension – a medium. As such, memories rush as in a flood beating against the walls of the narrative itself, contained by the structure of the prose poem, as a family's passions are constrained by, and at times rage against, the walls of a house.
She continues this raw exploration into family, identity, and intergenerational trauma, again through the cinematic lens, with an even more personal work, The Picture Show. A series of faithfully transcribed conversations with the poet’s grandmother, rendered in cinematic terms. Here again, stage direction is crafted from the surreality of memory in order to recreate the experience, working backwards with hours of tape to produce a deeply touching memory-film in poetic play form.
—Jessica Rogers, writer and professor at CUNY
A mesmerizing exploration of a life sans speech, yet rich with word. Cinematic in its expression, rhythmic in its telling, The Summer Flood Came Home is both direct and implied – an interconnected vision of presence and past, of a language between languages. Marthakis is a master of her craft, and Flood a dynamic testament of her power.
Part interview, part documentary, The Picture Show is alive with story, hung with the trappings of memory. Frame by frame, we are reminded that what we have is the book we have written for ourselves – moment by moment, letter by letter. Life is not a linear equation but rather a series of events that circle in upon one another, building over time, a legacy of action and emotion. Oral history binds one generation to the next; it is, in truth, how we begin to know ourselves. It is with great skill and an uncompromising voice that Marthakis highlights this very salient point – one all too often lost in our current reality.
—Megan London, poet and editor of transient/vanity press
Marthakis' cinepoem, The Summer Flood Came Home, submerges the reader into a sophisticated play between language and re-imagined memory, ebbing a juxtaposed, rise and fall of sublimation in its sharp exactitude to mark emotional spaces and reclaim the past and present simultaneously.
—Pirooz Kalayeh, director of The Human War and Shoplifting From American Apparel