Circle Tour, Eva Tihanyi’s ninth poetry collection, seeks and celebrates beauty in the face of despondency. Its three sections—Outer Circle, Inner Circle, Centre—draw us in as we move from the “outside” world of politics, culture, and art to the “inside” world of relationships with family, friends, and lovers, to the “core” world of the self.
The book begins with a stark announcement of hope: “If you’re reading this, / you’re still here.” It then moves to engagement with (among other things) the pandemic, feminism, and artists such as Marina Abramovic while reinforcing the healing power of Nature throughout our experiences with external, beyond-our-control circumstances. In the more personal second section, Tihanyi writes about loss through death; the continuing influence of her grandmother; the end of one love moving into a new, more profound love; the importance of friends, reminding us that “each day we must be / lucid with mutiny against despair.” The final section focuses on the self—not just the poet’s own but the universal human Self. It confronts the process of aging and its attendant contemplations, and once again reminds us of how Nature and art can help us in our “continuous becoming.”
The poems in Circle Tour invite a sequential reading as the book gathers force as it spirals upward. It takes us on a powerful journey that ends with the ultimate affirmation that leads us full circle to our present moment: “Enough on this day / to be enormously alive.”
“In Circle Tour Eva Tihanyi not only poses the question, what does it mean to make art and meaning in an uncertain world? she pulls us into this question and the act of questioning. “The artist is more than present” in these poems, but—more than that—we are invited to be present too. A journey through the concentric circles of Tihanyi’s carefully structured book is a coming-to-presence. Circle Tour is a powerful collection that challenges us to rethink the nature and potential of lyric poetry as a mode of human contact and imaginative response.”
—Johanna Skibsrud, author of The Description of the World, The Poetic Imperative: A Speculative Aesthetics, and the novel The Sentimentalists (winner of the Giller Prize).
“A lyrical, big-hearted celebration of what it takes to remain whole and hopeful, come what may.”
—Rona Maynard, author of My Mother’s Daughter and former Editor of Chatelaine
“Eva Tihanyi has done for stalwart love what Sylvia Plath did for despair. She examines it from every angle. She chronicles pain she has suffered in the past, and then does a stellar job of recounting how she left it behind. Circle Tour is erudite, uplifting, and completely honest.”
—Catherine Gildiner, author of Good Morning, Monster and the three-volume memoir Too Close to the Falls, After the Falls, and Coming Ashore
(from Section One – Outer Circle)
Here you are.
I’ve been waiting.
Will you let me
share the wind’s call, the life-force
of keen greening, the all-seeing sun
as it summers down
on the needy world?
Will you stay by my side
as all the things we’ve lost
fall upon us, their weight gaining
in the treacherous hours of night?
Will you enter into
the no-turning-back of love,
eyes open, your will free,
your hands reaching?
What will be your stance
in our unchosen world?
The sky stirs,
the shadows stretch.
There is time in everything.
The words hide
but we must find them.
It’s an earnest business,
manufacturing truth, the grand edifice
Everything comes, leaves,
season by season.
Have you noticed?
There are those
who revel in their vile chaos,
and whatever was for years
slouching toward us
is now irrevocably born.
It hurts, this darkness.
Did I tell you?
The fear welled up in me
and I cried.
But then the carapace of longing broke,
and I subsided.
DO YOU KNOW
The world is more fucked up than it’s ever been.
Do you know the oceans are drowning in themselves,
the sun is eating itself alive?
That deaths are coming faster than you can count,
and every day there’s a new lie about solutions?
Do you know you’ll be outlived
by glass and metal, Styrofoam and plastic?
That the conjunction of planets
and the alignment of stars don’t matter?
Do you know that unequivocal Power
considers itself holy?
That fate decreed you favoured,
gave you choices, conferred your worth?
Do you know that if you wreck yourself
on the rocks of language, you’ll continue bleeding?
(from Section Two – “Inner Circle”)
My poetry wanted them
and so they came, the tumultuous hours,
the bouts of love, the obsessions
like a fever.
Throughout it all, there you were,
friend of a lifetime, watching me
wend my way to adulthood,
my complex relationship with doors.
But the capricious moods of time,
inevitable, insistent as waves on rock,
wash over us, wear us down.
And the selves we were, less visible
with each passing year, recede
You knew me then,
you know me now.
To the end this will sustain me.
Come, let us link arms,
into the gaining dark.
CONVERSATIONS WITH MY SON
I carry your history within me,
the things only I can remember,
the versions of you that only I know.
Everyone else has died
or was never there.
It’s not easy to be the parent or the child,
to admit the hard words or to listen.
I say: I want you to know me
but there’s no such thing
as a perfect knowing.
And so we settle for less,
a compromise of understanding.
You text about the sparrows
that come daily to your balcony feeder,
the stray cat that finds your lap
on a city patio, sleeps there for an hour.
Of this I’m certain:
if a doe crossed your path
she wouldn’t be afraid,
would move on her slender legs
into your light.
And I pray to the powers that be:
Let this light prevail.
The world needs kind men.
We agree that it’s hard
to collate the days into meaning.
I can’t teach you happiness
but I can guess at what it’s not.
We exchange quotes.
You send Chomsky:
The general population doesn’t know
what’s happening, and doesn’t even know
that it doesn’t know.
I send Whitman:
There will never be any more perfection
than there is now.
To return is to acknowledge;
to acknowledge is to return.
We talk about death, your father’s
the month before you turned thirteen.
Twenty years later you visit his grave.
Healing is a long story
and this one belongs to both of us.
I remind you: each day we must be
lucid with mutiny against despair.
It will change your life,
which dark you choose, which light.
(from Section Three – “Centre”)
She is like darkness
but she isn’t dark.
She arrives unbidden, stark
and moving, a singer of dreams,
a seer of secrets.
Through her I discover promise
and meaning, the fragility of love.
She is in me and of me,
amusing muse, harbinger of music,
a girl, a woman, a feral crone.
It takes me years to recognize her,
even longer to understand
that she’s unfounded and whole,
a sacred ubiquity
that no mirror can reveal,
no death encompass.
I am small and immense,
I contain multitudes.
You who hold me now
will hold another me
the beating heart of things.
Think of Pompeii
The shards of jugs,
the fine mosaics,
the frescoes of earthly heaven.
the small box your grandfather made,
the dance of his dexterous hands
held in the wood.
A lit match could transform this
And then there are the words.
I too am a guilty trapper
but oh to free them!
To pry open the gates of meaning
and let the wild words run
exultant as horses.
One thing I’ve learned:
you can’t impose your foot
on the river.
I count my ballasts
and my balances,
am found wanting.
It has occurred to me that
I don’t do well in captivity.
I’m an escape artist
struggling with the tropes.
Maggot or magus?
In the museum
that things once ran.
Cavort, caress, don’t cower.
Trust the hawk swoop,
the shooting green tendril.
Do the sun work that can be done
only in the light.
Like the relentless windblown waves
keep on cresting, crashing,
coming back for more.
I wish for lucid dreams.
I long to ask the birds
the colour of their waking.
The day is a trickster
and there’s so little that I know.
Moment by moment
time captures us.
But truth is not transient
and in these deviant days
what haunts us will survive.
Daily we make
the pilgrimage toward hope
though often rumoured).
Daily we admire
the crooked spine of love,
how it teeters, tries
to hold us up
in this lonely world.
Then the shock of stars
when the night clears,
and we happen, for a moment,
to look up.