Gedda Ilves' A View From Within
Gedda Ilves’, A View From Within (2008 Aquarius West Press) is an elegantly homespun collection of poetry and prose, similar in tone to the earthy brilliance of Garrison Kellior.
However, as much as I enjoy this kind of writing, A View is weighted down with too much sentimentality. While it is natural for a writer in the autumn years of her life to a) mine the tunnels of her memory for inspiration, b) follow the impulse to look backward to assess what/who she has become, the overly sorrowful tone and rose-coloured glass through which Ilves views her life is distracting. Ilves is driven by a need to understand the “what” and “where” of why bad things (i.e.: Alzheimer’s, death) happen to her loved ones. Less would have been more, in my opinion. I am not casting dispersions on what drove Ilves to document so much of her life in this fashion, but “sorrow and pity” (à la Woody Allen) is not my cup of tea.
I DO enjoy writers who are gifted with versatility and edginess, which thankfully, Ilves has in abundance, and which she has demonstrated in more than a few poetic gems that permeate A View. Her “great capacity to paint a picture with the utmost economy of words,” as author Frans Borelage states, does much to rescue A View from being placed in the maudlin category.
Ilves is in her element exploring/imagining a variety of “what if,” scenarios, all of which are punctuated with “gotcha,” endings, often leaving the reader (yours truly) wondering how her (my) brain managed to make it into the centrifuge of Ilves’ mind, much less survive the ride. The key is in the compactness of Ilves writing, as demonstrated in the poem, “Solipsism,” a brief and well constructed vignette about a man who’s convinced he’s at the top of his game, while actually experiencing the opposite:
ocean waves splash
on the beach
he’s floating in a world of
ecstasy, festivity of senses
a world of wonders,
everything is possible,
the woman he desires
in his arms
he is envied,
a wizard respected by colleagues,
praised by bosses, wealthy, free
to live as he chooses
angry waves wash
the kelp off the shore
he is not driven out
of the Private Club,
his credit card is not
taken away from him,
his wife is still with him
lounging along the heated pool,
tall palms surround the courtyard,
tropical flowers in magenta,
crimson growing around…
he plunges into the blue water,
it burns, his tongue
sticks to his mouth
salty ocean waves
sweep over him
he struggles to get up, it’s dusk
visible on the bare floor
remnants of a spilled
I can just about set aside my admonition of too much sentimentality…, but only just. Still, curmudgeonly preferences aside, I happily recommend A View From Within to anyone who would like to become familiar with not only a local Los Angeles author, but to whet the literary appetite. Ilves has a new collection in the works, and I sincerely hope, as well as look forward to, more of her subtle poetic wit.
Bio: Gedda Ilves was born in Harbin, Manchuria, North China, of Russian parents. She lived in Shanghai during WWII and immigrated with her late husband via Brazil to Los Angeles where her son was born. She is the author of grains of life, which poet Brendan Constatine described as "at once clever and observant, with a rare gift for empathy."
A View From Within, Gedda Ilves, Copyright 2008, Aquarius West Press, 978-0-9759753-1-2, 109 pages, $12.