Bearing witness to truth, The Tempest is invested in poetry that attempts to reveal human pain through the art of words. Each poem is powerful, but the book’s strength emerges from its collective voice: different political conflicts, cultures, genders, ages, races—one shared human narrative. As we follow these survivors into their past and present lives we learn that poetry was the gift that restored.
The book’s wanderings in and out of forms—erasure poetry, free verse, prose poetry, haiku, tanka, haibun—signal its approach to some important preoccupations. The collection includes tales of love and rage—from displacement and homecoming, Budapest and its lilac hills above the Danube, where bombs fall, where at a train station cattle wagons wait for Jews to be deported to Auschwitz, where her family lives in Pirka, a Bavarian war refugee settlement— to immigrating to Montreal’s ice and snow, founding a family, fleeing an abusive marriage, and becoming an activist and taking a stand against domestic violence.
Like the figure she describes in her ekphrastic poem “Clotho” as “Ensnared in long tentacles of hair, skeletal, toothless, chiseled in white marble…” Martonfi’s The Tempest has hewn her own spare lines to recast her book’s obsession with the politics, violences, and musics of the oral.