Oranges in Times of Moon - poetry by Carlos Reyes-Manzo

 Oranges in Times of Moon by Carlos Reyes Manzo. Published by Andes Press Agency Cost £15

The work of Chilean photojournalist Carlos Reyes Manzo is well known to readers of the Catholic press. His pictures often appear in Catholic publications at regular intervals as he tracks back and forth across the trouble spots of the world. Less well known is Carlos' work as a poet.

Now the man who fled the tyranny of General Augusto Pinoche's Chile has brought together a number of his most graphic poems in an anthology of the past 25 years. The poems were written as Carlos moved from assignment to assignment across the world, though many were penned while he was living in London.

The poems will come as a surprise to many who have admired Carlos' ability as a photographer to so dramatically bring the plight of the afflicted into lives of the comfortable. The poetry offers another insight on poverty and suffering but there is joy and romance as well.

A favourite has to be 'the general and the baroness' written in January 2000 when General Pinochet was arrested in London pending extradition to Spain on criminal charges. The poem recalls the General and Baroness Thatcher having tea together. Nicely balanced, the poem opens with "the general smiles, the baroness serves tea." A short narrative follows which ends recalling how "the baroness remembered with pride her glories as iron lady and tea with the gaga general."

The poems vary in length from the three lines of "Children of Iraq" to the 14 verses of Roots of Fire written in South Africa in 1994, though most are six or seven verses long. There are Spanish and English versions of each poem appearing on facing pages.

"Romero of the Americas" recalls the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador in 1980. Again poignantly written the poem brings home the ultimate price that can be paid for speaking out. On a lighter note are poems such as "Saturday in Portobello" and the "Princess of Oxford Street." The first recalling the bustle and mystery of a busy London street, the second the anonymity of a woman in Oxford Street.

This anthology of poetry is well worth a read. There is joy and suffering chronicled in almost equal measures. It also offers an insight into the fascinating life of a true photojournalist committed to exposing the truth and advancing the cause of social justice around the world.

* Oranges in Times of Moon is available from Foyles bookshop, 113-119 Charing Cross Road, London WC2. where an exhibition of photographs by Carlos Reyes-Manzo has just opened. 'Digging for Blue Gold' runs until 24 October Mon-Sat 9.30am - 9pm. Sun 12-6pm. The show is sponsored by WaterAid.

first posted LONDON - 9 October 2006 - 465 words

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