Hammer of God, News that Stays News

Lucrezia Borgia, Bernadino di Beto, 1492-1494, location unknown, public domain

Hammer of God
Aria Ligi
Poetic Justice Books, 2018, 76 pages
Reviewed by Jeffrey Perso
 
A novelist, I read almost as much poetry as I do fiction. I find that poetry’s compression, clarity of language and strong imagery not only helps with the composition of prose sentences, it also helps clear my head, like drinking from a cool, clean stream. Lately, I have been clearing my head with the poems of Aria Ligi, particularly her impressive and well-received collection, Hammer of God.
In “Asphodel, That Greenery Flower,” William Carlos Williams wrote
it is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there
 
Along similar lines, Ezra Pound wrote that literature is “news that stays news.”
 
It is safe to say that Aria Ligi brings the reader news from across the spectrum of human existence. In “Blackened at Birth” she brings news of the questioning self.
 
My existence was a mistake,
Pondered on in the empty hours
And under fingers that clutch the grave.
 
My existence puzzled the purity of faith.
 
And in “Charlotte Dreaming”
 
Cattails swaying between my mother’s knees and womb.
 
I was a curse unnamed on their name, on being,
Of what was expected
 
In the title poem, “Hammer of God,” Ligi broadens her focus on the news uncovered by the questing self to show us how such investigations can lead to realizing that forces greater than ourselves often interfere with the pursuit of truth.
 
Why don’t you let the hammer of god rain down on me;
The gibbet tied tightly in your bloodied fists-
……………………………………………..
To think is absolute freedom-
To question is to shine.
These things professed as unmitigated truth,
Now rot and twist are stamped divine-
……………………………………………….
In the blaspheme, in the sour bilious breeze,
The hammer sounds, the tree is felled—I am free.
 
For such sentiments, (and this is not a criticism but rather a compliment), it is safe to say that if Aria Ligi had been born in the Middle Ages, she would have no doubt been burned at the stake, a fate she faces ferociously.
 
It is not just from the realm of religion, or the reflecting self that Ligi brings us news. She also casts her talents towards contemporary events. In “Absolute Stain” she turns her eye toward the current crisis specific to the USA.
 
Good morning America, do you hear my cry;
The unborn epiphanies never to arise.
This mouth nakedly open could swallow you-
Who lie blinded and wounded by your hand,
Filtering for coins in the burnt and mildewed lands.
 
 And in the section titled “Simple Blind,” Ligi takes on the national disgrace occasioned by the murders of African-American males. Dedicated to teenaged Trayvon Martin, shot to death in Florida by a self-appointed vigilante, the poem, “Divided Stain,” in its entirety reads
 
It is not with a blade-tipped-nor abased,
This masquerade of black boy’s bodies on parade.
 
Do their corpses float, unbent-unbroken
Above our field of plane,
Whispering raining, softly the silent shrieks,
Then no more pain.
 
Illustrated with color and black and white plates, including Paul Delaroche’s “The Execution of Lady Jane Grey,” and Jan van Eyck’s “The Virgin with Chancellor Rolin Luber,” Hammer of God is a collection that “brings news that stays news,” and helps clear the reader’s head and quenches the thirst for fresh language as well. A gifted, fearless writer, Aria Ligi is a poet whose work deserves space on the national bookshelf.
 
An award-winning journalist and university professor, Jeff Perso‘s novel, Water Bodies, is published by Black Rose Writing.
 

 
 


In “Asphodel, That Greenery Flower,” William Carlos Williams wrote
it is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there
 
Along similar lines, Ezra Pound wrote that literature is “news that stays news.”
 
It is safe to say that Aria Ligi brings the reader news from across the spectrum of human existence. In “Blackened at Birth” she brings news of the questioning self.
 
My existence was a mistake,
Pondered on in the empty hours
And under fingers that clutch the grave.
 
My existence puzzled the purity of faith.
 
And in “Charlotte Dreaming”
 
Cattails swaying between my mother’s knees and womb.
 
I was a curse unnamed on their name, on being,
Of what was expected
 
In the title poem, “Hammer of God,” Ligi broadens her focus on the news uncovered by the questing self to show us how such investigations can lead to realizing that forces greater than ourselves often interfere with the pursuit of truth.
 
Why don’t you let the hammer of god rain down on me;
The gibbet tied tightly in your bloodied fists-
……………………………………………..
To think is absolute freedom-
To question is to shine.
These things professed as unmitigated truth,
Now rot and twist are stamped divine-
……………………………………………….
In the blaspheme, in the sour bilious breeze,
The hammer sounds, the tree is felled—I am free.
 
For such sentiments, (and this is not a criticism but rather a compliment), it is safe to say that if Aria Ligi had been born in the Middle Ages, she would have no doubt been burned at the stake, a fate she faces ferociously.
 
It is not just from the realm of religion, or the reflecting self that Ligi brings us news. She also casts her talents towards contemporary events. In “Absolute Stain” she turns her eye toward the current crisis specific to the USA.
 
Good morning America, do you hear my cry;
The unborn epiphanies never to arise.
This mouth nakedly open could swallow you-
Who lie blinded and wounded by your hand,
Filtering for coins in the burnt and mildewed lands.
 
 And in the section titled “Simple Blind,” Ligi takes on the national disgrace occasioned by the murders of African-American males. Dedicated to teenaged Trayvon Martin, shot to death in Florida by a self-appointed vigilante, the poem, “Divided Stain,” in its entirety reads
 
It is not with a blade-tipped-nor abased,
This masquerade of black boy’s bodies on parade.
 
Do their corpses float, unbent-unbroken
Above our field of plane,
Whispering raining, softly the silent shrieks,
Then no more pain.
 
Illustrated with color and black and white plates, including Paul Delaroche’s “The Execution of Lady Jane Grey,” and Jan van Eyck’s “The Virgin with Chancellor Rolin Luber,” Hammer of God is a collection that “brings news that stays news,” and helps clear the reader’s head and quenches the thirst for fresh language as well. A gifted, fearless writer, Aria Ligi is a poet whose work deserves space on the national bookshelf.
 
An award-winning journalist and university professor, Jeff Perso‘s novel, Water Bodies, is published by Black Rose Writing.
 

 
 

Hammer of God Skillfully executed, passionate poetry – not for the faint of heart!

Aria Ligi’s Hammer of God tackles difficult, raw topics and takes the reader through a gamut of emotion with skillfully arranged visceral and sensual poetry. From the soul-breaking pain of betrayal (Hammer of God section) and loss (Missive Mourn) to the poignant Prime Mother and altogether cool Faery Fluting, the author combines literary prowess and passion with astute observations.

Most impressive to this reader was Cookie Dough, with its insightful, “…Yet we stand above, At the larder of life and judge what is, as less than. We lament the loss…”, and Vesper Bell, which reminds us of the tragic effects of misplaced suspicion.

Researching the occasional archaic word as well as the life of Lucrezia Borgia is worth the extra reading. Hammer of God contains exquisite artwork and terrific one-liners. Highly recommended (for adults only), especially for poetry lovers.

Kathleen Spalding, Author

Hammer of God: A Vivid and Dazzling Collection by Joseph Sale

Aria Ligi’s poetry collection, Hammer of God (which is in two parts, Hammer of God and Ballet in Poesy, when available from the publisher Poetic Justice, and one in one volume everywhere else)is a vivid and dazzling collection wrought with emotion, violence, profundity, and spirituality. Ligi draws on classical imagery and themes in her work, and reflects this in her rich vocabulary, yet the way she draws the characters and scenes she observes feels intensely modern.
 
Stylistically, the poetry has a dark beauty. She treads a line between the profane, almost cult-like acts of depravity, prejudice and sin, with the holy and sacred. Most impressive is her use of form and meter, rhyme and assonance, in surprising and often unanticipated ways. These moments of sudden para-rhyme, where the words connect in sound, gives way to real poetic resonance and meaning. For example, in the conclusion to her poem ‘Delivery Seal’, featured in Hammer of God:
 
Hushed in whispers shrouded in screams-
 
Where to be, a woman was to be prey,
To voice dissent was only a dream.
 
The surprising rhyme, connecting ‘scream’ with ‘dream’, reveals the oxymoronically frustrated nature of a woman’s battle against oppressive forces.
 
The second half of the collection, Ballet in Poesy, features some more uplifting verse:
 
In raining, shower the equipage,
Complete each fairway and byway,
The road to evermore.
 
One is reminded of the optimistic travelling poetry of Tolkien: ‘The road goes ever on and on’, yet there is something spiritual and eternal suggested in Aria Ligi’s final line, the sense of a greater journey beyond death. Coupled with her spirituality, is also a sexual energy that runs throughout in poems such as Poet Pen and Corn Queen.
 
Finally, Ligi’s poetry is contemporaneous and relevant to our times, especially as she explores themes of inequality, unseen crimes against fellow humanity, and of corruption at the highest level. In her poem, ‘Dividing Stain’, she briefly alludes to ‘black boy’s bodies on parade’ before then cutting us with an astonishing quatrain:
 
Do their corpses float, unbent-unbroken
Above our field of plan.
Whispering raining, softly the silent shrieks,
Then no more the pain.
 
This is outstanding poetry that is at once classical and contemporary. I cannot recommend Hammer of God enough.

Joseph Sale, Author and Editor, and author of Beyond the Black Gate