Booklist – Bellini In Istanbul by Lillias Bever

lilies beverEarly Review of Bellini in Istanbul from Booklist

*Starred Review* The poem about artwork has gone pretty stale because most new examples of the type are too picture-dependent, and publishers seldom pop for art reproductions in poetry books. We need to see what the poet’s talking about, and we can’t. Thank God, then, for Bever, who realizes that art is inextricable from human nature in history. When she writes about artworks, instead of getting stuck on the pieces’details, she descries the perdurable humanity in them. It isn’t the how or why of the female figures on a funerary frieze, but the fact that they weep, with all that women’s weeping says about history, that Bever weighs in “The Tomb of the Weeping Women.” Her set of poems on the encounter between Gentile Bellini and Mehmet II, conqueror of Byzantium, who employed the Westerner as a court painter in 1479-80, notices many particular paintings, but its theme is the complex culture shock of artist confronting tyrant. In the book’s closing section, artworks still appear, most memorably in the monologues spoken by seven swords in a museum, but the no-less-evocative love affair of a visiting American and a Turk in Istanbul eclipses them. Throughout, Bever piquantly orders and juxtaposes the poems, so that, for example, “Cesarean” appears in the midst of otherwise mythical and archaeological poems in a section called “Excavation.” A thoughtful, dazzling first collection. Ray Olson, American Library Association.