Fifty Confessions (March, 2009) is a collection of free-verse poetry exploring the author’s metaphorical descent into the dark nether regions of his own psyche; one that has been gradually worn down by years of suffering a mystery ailment that has gone undetected. It also revolves around the morbid fears that come when threatened by such an ineluctable destiny. Marked by trials and tribulations, the author’s life is paved by the autoimmune reactions of a conscious mind that makes psychological warfare upon itself; a conscious mind that is forever at odds with everyone else. The circle of confessions are grouped into six sections pertaining to the psychosocial model of stress response, beginning with the illness’s onset and concluding with acceptance and some degree of closure, bringing the reader into his mind as he struggles.
Much of Paul Kiritsis’ latest book, “Fifty Confessions”, reads like prose in a poem suit, and it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what kind of poetic style he’s using. Although free verse is largely subjective, and broadens the parameters of what can be defined as poetry, Kiritsis finds a way to straddle the furthest edge of that boundary. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Visually, he rebukes the use of symmetrical poetry as well as much of the visual vocabulary invoked by poets like E.E. Cummings (‘&’s, lower case letters, etc.) and there are no discernable uses of measure or meter, which makes these poems dissolve in any aural context. The only exceptions being the opening prologue, a formal poem written as a rhyming dialogue between classic mythical figures, and the epilogue, written in the same form, but strangely with the rhyming omitted.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, since Kiritsis stresses both in his summary and in his introduction that it’s the words themselves that make the poem rather than specific form or aesthetic. The outline of the book itself is meant to evoke the kind of atmosphere of a confessional, as stressed in his introduction, “I’ve never, ever before confessed any of my demons on paper. Until now, that is.” Then the author doubles back on the invocation poem to say that “whether or not/ They’re completely honest,/ Is another affair,/ Isn’t it?” The double contradiction of confessing to lying in confession is interesting, although it ultimately brings about the question: why confess at all?
This is the main problem with “Fifty Confessions”, as many of the poems sound more like accusations than confessions. Most poems in the first section, appropriately titled ‘Ancient Enemy’, throw harsh words at the scientific and medical communities that continually look for physical and mental ailments, but can’t diagnose the pain in the author’s soul. The second part is a lashing out at family members with ‘Holidays’, physicians with ‘the Physician’, archaeologists with ‘Treasure Hunt’, and metrosexuals with ‘The Stud on the Train’, and don’t offer any real confessions at all.
Of course, in the post-modern, double-meaning, catch-all sense one might refer back to Kiritsis’ original confession (that these aren’t really honest confessions) and see the book instead as a larger confession of the author’s unyielding angst. Certainly there is evidence to suggest this in poems like ‘Mercy’, ‘Friend or Foe’, and ‘The Beast Within’. Although, even the writer seems to have trouble pinning down exactly what angst he’s feeling. Vague lines like “I am not afraid/ of the darkness within/ simply because/ I’ve never felt/ the light to begin with,” suggest an ominous bleakness that cannot be visually expressed. Is it an inability to love? Is it an unhappy childhood? Is it drug use?
Some might find a poetic place to project their uncertainty, but with a lack of lyric style, some rather hollow visuals (what is a “medical hologram of the universe”?), and an overuse of ambiguity, “Fifty Confessions” just doesn’t hit the right poetic note for me. It’s raw and unchallenging, which gives it a sense of style that could punch you good if you stand still and let it, but its just too easy to take one step backward and watch it flail around, never knowing quite where to go or where to end.
- Eric Jones from BookReview.com
Rating: Excellent! Fifty Confessons Brings About Real Emotion!
Fifty Confessions is a series of free-verse poetry that wrestle with the “feeling of wrongness” inside the poet, Paul Kiritsis. As the poet mentions in the author note of the book, this feeling, a genuine health mystery, is still undiagnosed today. Based on his experience with the medical world and this malady, he offers these 50 confessions.
In the poem, “A Stroke of Wrongness” we see the heart of his medical dilemma:
“Something is very wrong.
I do not feel well
Sitting on the throne of my being.
It has begun feeding
From my spiritual arteries.
It has begun to set loose
This restlessness inside of me.”
Readers will be touched by the desperate plea for someone (some force, some spirit), to pay attention to this pain inside of him. The poet often breaks down the illness so we can understand his struggles, not only in the present, but for the years that have passed, and those he dreads that are yet to come. This is the burden of an undiagnosed illness on the human psyche.
I particularly liked “Formulaic Medicine” which spoke of going to the doctor when you are feeling sick and in need of care, only to receive a clinical, non-emotional and often uncaring response in return. The poem urges the doctors:
“That your hard-earned knowledge
Might someday turn against you,
Unless you heed to the facts
And physics of one’s heart.”
In “Diagnosis X,” the poet talks about an issue common to many of those who come to a medical professional with legitimate health concerns, only to be told that either it’s “all in your head” or that, as the poet mentions, the patient should “see a psychiatrist.” This is an all-too common occurrence when physicians cannot medically explain or understand the patient’s malady.
In “Mercy,” the poet sends up a short, sweet, sincere prayer that asks God why. What does he have to do to end this pain, and what did he do to deserve it in the first place?
So often poets speak of emotional pain only, and I enjoyed the perspective of physical pain as it relates to and brings about emotions, questions, and prayers. The section Actions and Reactions is perhaps the most personal of the confessions. The reader is immersed in diary-like observations too personal to be uttered aloud, yet fascinating when absorbed as the written word.
“The Beast Within” is a wonderfully poignant poem that reveals just how heavy the burden of carrying a mysterious illness within your being can be. It talks of embracing the darkness of pain as a matter of routine — something other people would fear — and yet the poet deals with this on a daily basis.
Mythology and history are combined throughout the personal themes of pain and spiritual questioning, which add up to be a thoroughly enjoyable selection of poems that readers, regardless of their background or experience, will be able to enjoy. I was touched by Fifty Confessions, with many of the poems remaining behind with me, a reminder of the brilliance of the poet Paul Kiritsis.
- Cherie Burbach from Bonjour Poetry Reviews
Paul Kiritsis surely has traveled the depths of his soul to create his latest poetry collection, Fifty Confessions. For the reader who does not shy away from the dark corners of the human condition and from the exposure of raw emotion, Fifty Confessions will probably be appealing.
Quite bravely, Kiritsis leads the book with a confession in itself, sharing his personal crisis filled with serious physiological debilitation. The allopathic medical profession could not provide him with any diagnoses to his ailments, with most doctors decreeing him in good health, suggesting that perhaps his subconscious was merely running him down. Each poem unravels a thread of his internal suffering, perhaps therapeutic to his own healing process and even comforting to those who face similar demons.
As we travel the depths of his troubles, we experience a beautiful interweaving of Greek mythology, modern day life, dreams and nightmares. One poem reads:
Upon me, Lord,
For no amount
Deserves a punishment
That is this
I reside in.
To often harsh analyses of others that brim with truth:
There’s some fungal megalomania
Growing in your cerebral cortex;
Don’t get too ahead of yourself.
Your strings are being pulled
By significant others,
And you’ll only ever shine
For as long as the brain police so desire!
Without a doubt, Kiritsis writes poetry with intensity. His intimate words can jump off the page in moments like this when:
I scream and scream,
And nobody will believe me
When I tell them
What it’s like for a blind man
To finally see without seeing
And come to grips
With spiritual madness,
Which will be
The mainstream common sense
And ruin of the world some day.
Fifty Confessions can jump around quite a bit, leaving us to catch up to the next thought. The collection will not appeal to everyone; don’t pick it up if you want a flowing river that sparkles of nature or love poems. But it probably will appeal to the minds that enjoy following the twisting paths of word and mind play of dark places, and the balance of ancient myths versus modern day stories.
Quill Says: A dark poetic confessional, raw and intriguing.
- Lauren E. Victor from Feathered Quill Reviews
“All the meaning and purpose
That one is entitled to by right of birth
Are there; tangible and full of song…”
Fifty Confessions, Australian Paul Kiritsis' third book of poetry, is the first centered on his experiences with an undiagnosed medical ailment and the medical establishments disbelief that anything is wrong with him. The book begins with an introduction in which Kiritsis' describes the journey that led him to the internal place where he was inspired to write the book, and it is followed by six distinct sections of poetry, loosely grouped thematically. His poems embrace mythological and spiritual allusions, pop culture references, and many other disparate subjects; for example, these lines are from The Island of Silence:
The stone giants
Of worlds before our own
Remain animate only as long
As the sculptors
Who carved them
Live to translate
Their thoughts and feelings.
Kiritsis' poetry displays a unique voice that is maturing. Readers who have had discouraging experiences with the medical establishment in their own life or second-hand via a loved one will likely find many of these poems especially relatable, with ruminations such as these lines from Diagnosis X:
Theres nothing wrong with you,
Except in that bent, little mind of yours.
Thats what they tell you when they dont understand.
Or simply when the answer eludes them.
And if they repeat it enough times,
They might convince you to believe it. Poetry readers that enjoy poetry comprised of vignettes that are laden with symbolism or evocative of emotional responses will also find many treasures to read in this volume, such as this from Black cobra: Instead of striking me
With her freckly fangs,
She dashed for the nearest rock
And buried her head under it,
Unaware that her limbless torso
Was still showing.
Kiritsis shows that he has much to say about both the external world and his internal world through his poetry, and readers can look forward to more volumes likely to come in the future.
- The US Review of Books
“Fifty Confessions” is Paul Kiritsis’s third book of poetry. This newest offering begins with an Author’s Note that reveals quite a bit of the author’s personal life, kind of like a confession in itself. He tells us how he has been stricken with some sort of ailment, even becoming bedridden at one point, but the medical community is unable to determine theunderlying cause of his symptoms. Struggling with this issue, Kiritsis has been trying to regain some sense of normalcy in his life and has immersed himself in writing more than ever before.
Kiritsis’s book is divided into six different sections: The Ancient Enemy, Behold My Wealth, Actions and Reactions, In the Aftermath, Myths and Ruminations, and The Savage Past. The author states that fifty of his confessions are to be revealed in the book. However, then he goes on to say, “But whether or not they’re completely honest is another affair, isn’t it?” (p. 11) At first I didn’t like this fact about the book because I figure that if you are confessing something, then why not do it for real and not throw in fiction along with it. However, as I read further into the book I kind of enjoyed the element of mystery surrounding the confessions and wondering where they were true or not.
Most of the writing in the book is dark, with a lot of negative undertones. Most particularly under attack are the members of the medical community. One of the poems that still remains lodged in my mind is the one entitled “The Physician.” I think that this poem is pretty representative of Kiritsis’s style, so I will include that one in my review and allow you to make the determination as to whether or not the author’s writing would appeal to you.
“The Physician” reads as follows:
“You told the patient
That there was nothing wrong,
Except in his mind,
And then went home
To enjoy a candlelit dinner for two.
Six months later,
You were sorry that the patient
Had died from virulent cancer…
…And then went home
To enjoy a candlelit dinner for two.” (p.43)
All in all, I found “Fifty Confessions” to be a raw, interesting read. Kiritsis has a very unique writing style and I was very drawn in to his work. I also applaud the author for exposing so much about himself in his author’s note and in his poetry. Kiritsis’s writing will stay lodged in your mind long after you are finished reading the words on paper.
- RebeccasReads.com from Kam Aures
Fifty Confessions is the new collection of poems by award winning poet Paul Kiritsis. The poems reveal, in a raw and very personal fashion, his descent into the darker regions of his own psyche, due to the influence of an undiagnosed illness. The complexity of this descent is influenced by his interests in mythology, occult philosophy, Western alchemy, history, psychology and English literature.
The beginning of the book explains in prose what happened to him during the summer of 1992. Kiritsis was revelling in the excitement of returning from a farm holiday, and was looking forward to his first year of high school when, over the course of a week, he realised that something had changed, and things didn’t feel right within him anymore. He became convinced that he was dying, but although he regularly attended church, he couldn’t bring himself to confess his mortal fears to his local priest.
At the age of twenty-one, he was forced to have a blood test because of his worsening physical symptoms. He was then confronted with what he calls the “unknown enemy”: an undiagnosed illness that all but one of his medical practitioners dismissed as a psychological or illusionary illness.
The poetry of Fifty Confessions is, therefore, an intensely personal revelation of what it is like to live with such an illness. These confessions are grouped chronologically, written in the form of a poetical diary, as he addresses and battles with himself, the illness, the medical profession and the drug companies.
Kiritsis’ modern free verse is sometimes immediate, and at other times he expresses himself through the characters and philosophies of myth, legend and religion. The relationships within this world are frequently dark and troubled. The poems graphically allow the reader to perceive the world through the eyes of a man who is suffering from an indeterminate yet real “unwellness.” By openly admitting his fears, frustrations and anger, the poet enables the audience to identify with how someone can live for years with an illness that modern medicine does not understand.
However, there are moments of light and hope. Even though in A Stroke of Wrongness he writes that, “The light seems so much farther, The earth much less nurturing. The water has lost potency In quenching my thirst,” his Neo-Platonic or Gnostic belief in a god can appear hopeful. In Have Faith In The Silent Footfalls Of Love, the Divine Physician is described, “As real as the oxygen We breathe into our lungs; Ready to blow fresh Air into their lives If only they just believed.”
Kiritsis offers no simple solutions; this is not a book of happy endings and easy answers, but there is a sense of acceptance and potential hope at the conclusion. In the epilogue, the character of Aphrodite declares, “And when the Golden Age does dawn I’ll scry the old world’s stillness, To prove to you that The seed and the sword Cannot be crushed by illness.”
- AllBooks Review from Wheldon Curzon-Hobson
Author Paul Kiritsis has taken a huge step in writing about his own personal battle with an unidentified illness and his thoughts on his life as it is. His poetry gives readers the opportunity to reflect on their own lives and how they respond to obstacles and hidden anger.
“Fifty Confessions” is not a book to breeze through; readers need to take their time and find the meaning of the poems and relate that information to their own lives. Often we rely on others to make decisions for us or guide our lives. How unfortunate that we allow that. We don’t question or probe the information further. Paul Kiritsis has done that- one of his favorite targets is the medical field, whom many believe are Gods. We accept what they say without question- yet we are still in pain, depressed and often lonely.
Kiritsis says that, many times, when we do not understand the present and what is happening in our lives and why, we retreat back to the basics. We reacquaint ourselves with our faith and how it helps or hinders us. Regardless of what our higher power is, sometimes we have to turn ourselves over to it when all else fails.
This is a very thought-provoking read. If you do not finish this reading questioning life, then you have not read the true meaning of “Fifty Confessions” by Paul Kiritsis.
- Reader Views from Carol Hoyer, PhD