There are many poets who write excellent poems. And then there are a few whose dedication to craftsmanship and the luminous spirit of their art cause them, eventually, to evolve into a living extension of the poems they create. For me, George Edvard Mateos was the latter kind of poet, and like in the online literary community I was surprised last week to learn of his passing a year ago.
To read a poem by Georg was to step magic-like inside a grassy clearing of winged music, candle-lit revelation, and waltzing syllables. I never met him in flesh-and-blood person but met him often, if you will, between lines of his work and gladly celebrated the light discovered there. His literary voice was one forged of cosmopolitan poetic sensibilities and a natural flare for expressiveness that was both classic in tone and highly original in substance. I had no problems imagining that even his sneezes might come tumbling out in shining iambic pentameters.
In The Poet Theophrastus Would Question To Learnthe great Andre Emmanuel Bendavi ben-YEHU’s masterful tribute poem to Georg, Bendavi ben-YEHU provided this portrait of the late poet:
Enduring life with wisdom and science — real knowledge flows;
Devotion to his Muses never fails to warm his heart...
Valiant soldier — in three wars kept spirit — and body whole...
An IMAGE OF A SAD MAN IN A BROKEN MIRROR, part
Revealing pains and art; and part on children whose lives glow
Diffusing innocence — sublime time — that beauty imparts!
--© Andre Emmanuel Bendavi ben-YEHU
These lines, and the longer poem from which they are borrowed, say a great about the path of adventure, exploration, and survival that Georg traveled from childhood to maturity. He put it this way: “A child that lost his world of promised smiles in a home which never was sweet, and going on thirty by the age of twelve.” He may have been cheated of the childhood that started out in Sausalito, California, but by the time he reached maturity in Japan and Switzerland he had richly rewarded with gifts of quiet genius: as a poet, a novelist, an artist, a man.
“Salvador Dalì could have painted my life,” he wrote. Who would be inclined to doubt him?
I had the privilege in 2008 of nominating Georg Edvard Mateos for literary recognition that I felt––and feel–– was well deserved. Once he learned about it, he wrote me to share a poem he’d originally written for a friend of some forty years named Yutaka Kobayashi, a poem about the value of friendship in his life. The humility of soul and surety of language his message employed made me not only want to kick it up a notch or two where my writing was concerned. It made me want to do the same where my humanity is concerned. I will leave you now with the words he shared with me:
I have done so little that I don't deserve so much, but I am grateful and honored that my name came to the thoughts of the people that matter most, the poets, the writers, the authors, the thinkers, and to you and all of them I will say:
“Tomodachi acazu” means in Japan
“a friend with untiring zeal,”
the one which will be always there,
in times of sorrow to dry your tears,
and silently walk as over a tatami mat
with sadness you rest your head…
The one that in times of joy will collect
the smiles happily leaving your face,
so you wouldn’t forget them tomorrow
knitting smiles into an amazing maze,
like a golden spider made of laughter
trapping flying jokes in your garden…
A Shogun counts on the undying loyalty
of the Samurai’s katana deadly blade,
to protect his house and his well being
wherever he chooses his heart to place,
but only a simple man with no power
can call another man, his true friend…
Lotus flowers gentle teetered by kamikaze
divine-wind taking warmth from your heart,
carrying the perfume of all your thoughts
to rest like a balsam on the tired hands
of the spirit that resides in your tomodachi,
that your friendship he wears, deep inside…
The one that will not abandon by leaving
without a word, like a raven by the night,
invisible, a false and malignant intruder
invading like deadly smoke your house;
with his untiring zeal for you, his friend,
he wouldn’t ever desert from his guard…
A happy man, there is no one more happy,
than the one having at his side a tomodachi.
Tomodachi = Friend
Acazu = with untiring zeal
A man that have many friends will be an oasis in a barren world that don't want him.
With my deepest thanks,
Georg Edvard Mateos