Agape and Ares

Poetry - Love/Romance
39 Pages
Reviewed on 12/20/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite

Agape and Ares by Ksenia Sein, an Estonian poet and musician, is a lyrical narrative poem about an erotic meeting between a captivating Estonian tourist and a Greek Casanova. But placing the libretto under the title of the Greek God of War and the Goddess of Divine Love takes the storyline soaring far above a meeting in Fira, at a bar called Franco’s. Ah, it’s poetry and fine poetry at that. So, we can soar. As a child, Ares was deprived of his mother’s milk. He has the proverbial chip on his shoulder, is attractive to women, but not very nice to them. He is rough and resentful. But one glance at Agape and he must get to know her. She is not only lovely but can see the good beneath all cruel actions. She is empathetic and forgiving. And she is attracted to the seducer Agape. She drinks watermelon juice and he ouzaki, symbolic of their wide differences. She beautifully describes her homeland, especially the island of Saaremaa, and he takes her in his boat around the Aegean Sea to show her its islands and volcanos. Then some stuff happens that really tests Agape’s divine forgiveness.

Ms. Sein’s poem is divided into nine chapters, each preceded by an intriguing charcoal sketch. The whole presentation has a sophisticated, yet rustic ambiance. Each chapter has a series of mostly four-line stanzas. There’s no rhyme pattern, quite a bit of off-rhyme (light/life) (priest/police), some traditional rhyme (damned/land) (night/right), a lot of non-rhyme, and no regular meter; thus, the poem exemplifies modern free verse. I’m not sure of the significance of pairing Estonia and Greece, but that’s one of the things I love about poetry—the ambiguities that induce interpretation. Poets don’t like saying anything directly. So, this poem could well have sprung from something as mundane as a woman’s Greek vacation and a one-night stand with a dude she met at a bar. A meeting does occur, but the uplifting of the story to classic mythology gives the rendezvous a cosmic stature. The poet calls the piece “a novelette in verse,” which is how it reads. Some haunting imagery: “a loving heart now fogged with sorrow;” “the never-tasted nights with candles.” There’s a deep message too; the purification of violence through forgiveness. And the mythological references elevate Agape and Ares to the heights of relevance. In all—Thank you, Ksenia Sein, and bravo!

Sarah Stuart

Agape and Ares: A romantic story in verse by Ksenia Sein is written in freestyle with a nod to “short story” in as much as every poem, none of them long, is designated as one of nine chapters. Each of them is illustrated with an appropriate sketch, but all of them are entitled Agape and Ares. Ares appears first, mourning his start in life and very angry that his mother left him in an orphanage, thus denying him her love and suckling at her breast. “Ares was angry with the world — Healing his hidden pain with love affairs and fun.” He meets Agape and is enchanted by her, and Agape sees Ares has unhealed wounds she may cure with trust, sincerity, faith, love, kindness, and patience; Agape believes people are basically worthy.

Agape and Ares is a captivating romantic fantasy, and the reality of the setting, the Greek island of Santorini, is built gradually and only named close to the end, almost like a musical pause before the final crescendo. The motives behind Ares’ undesirable traits are revealed early, but the actions he takes multiply more slowly, exposing him as a strikingly handsome but dangerous anti-hero. Agape has no doubt as to her ability to change him, but beliefs rooted deep in early childhood present themselves. Ksenia Sein’s telling of the culmination of this ill-fated romance, the tragedy, and eternal loss, moved me to tears. Agape and Ares: A romantic story in verse is accurately titled and not a book that will easily be forgotten by its readers.