Christian Narkiewicz-Laine

Christian Narkiewicz-Laine

Christian Narkiewicz-Laine is an architect, architecture journalist, critic, writer, painter, and poet. He was educated in architecture at the Université de Strasbourg in France and studied archaeology at the American School of Archaeology in Athens, Greece. He finished his studies at Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, Illinois and studied at the American Academy in Rome with the Critic’s Prize from The Graham Foundation for the Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

He worked as the architecture critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and editor of Inland Architect in Chicago. He was the special architectural consultant for Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises in New York, Washington, DC., and Chicago.

Since 1989, he has been the Museum President/CEO of The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and has functioned as the Museum’s chief curator. He has organized major exhibitions on architecture and design at museums across Europe and North and South America. He has authored numerous publications and books on the subjects of architecture and design. He taught architectural history and aesthetics at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. In 2007, he also became the Director and CEO of The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, based in Dublin, Ireland and Athens, Greece.

As a poet, he has completed and published several volumes of his own works including: Distant Fires (1997); Baltic Hours (1999); and Greenland (2003). Baltic Hours was republished in a Lithuanian/English edition by Baltos Langos (2007). In 1999, he collected and published the lost and forgotten manuscripts Inspiration: Nature and the Poetry (Complete Poetic Works of the Chicago Architect, Louis H. Sullivan). In 2009, he published American Poets Against the War along with over 100 major U.S. poets and literary figures as an anti-war anthology against the War in Iraq and the Bush Administration.

In his most recent poetic work, Rings Around Saturn (2014), the poet explores a mystical dialogue with nature, the universe, and the higher realm of being.

His paintings, sculpture, and video works have been shown in museums and galleries across Europe, Latin America, and the United States.

In 2013-2014, the poet-artist also issued two new books of his contemporary works of painting, sculpture, video, and installations: Praxis (with introduction by the Italian Architect, Alessandro Mendini) and The Emperor’s Fleet is Burning.

In 2019, the poet’s latest book, Dreams of the Shipwrecked Sailor, is being published by Metropolitan Arts Press, as well as a new book of the artist’s works, Seven Years Inside the Labyrinth.

As an outspoken political and human rights activist, he has campaigned against any and all wars and has recently undertaken a fight to end the death penalty in America.

He lives and works in Galena, Illinois and Athens, Greece.

 
ON THE SHIP TO NAXOS

In Greece, I remember those poetic, ancient steamships
that once transported people and things from the mainland
and from island to island. A certain metaphoric romance
existed in sailing and journeying to unknown ports where
foreign travelers such as myself once mingled on ships
carrying sailors, soldiers, village islanders, and widowed
women dressed in black holding bouquets of flowers and
spices. On many occasions, uniformed Greek soldiers
played their baglamás and tzourás and sang and danced
as the seagoing vessels embarked to distant shores.
On one such voyage, I recorded the following:

Several hours after leaving Piraeus,
somewhere near the island of Agios Georgios,
an Orthodox church appeared—
afloat on the white summit of the waves.
The Byzantine stone building balanced by
its accompanying bell tower glided majestically,
buoyed up by the spiritual depth of Greece—
swaying strongly in the rhythm of the sea.

The bells rang out
like midnight on Resurrection Sunday:
a frenzied, joyous ring—
about no longer being alone, dark in the night,
about no longer helpless jetsam on the water’s surface.
To know and to embrace one’s uncertain destiny.

How strange is this apparition.
How vague the shift of the sea and mountains destroy.
How strange it is to converse with the
dead when life among the living
remains no longer sufficient.

Bong, bing, bong, bong—
The gigantic tower bobbed like cork on water.
The weight of the bells pulling the tower
into a near tumble, rocking back and forth.

The bells resounded intense, nonstop—
The bells endlessly dream
their simple bell’s dreams,
so powerful, so innocently passive,
as the years go past and as
memory swells and as
the soul fills with a wind that
holds taunt to the masts and to the yards.

Over my shoulder, as our ship passed,
I noticed several other passengers, too,
witnessed the same dream-like apparition.

The universe inside me is dying.

From Greenland. Copyright © Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd., 2003

 
MY SOUL

I am that star most dreaded by the wise.
For they are drawn against their will to me
—W. H. Auden

My soul.
You are my love.
My every moment of every day.
My sweetness.
My unexpected joy.
My fateful kiss.
My every notion of happiness.
My signed away resignation.
My honor and my innocence.
My equilibrium.
My forthright trust.
My painful stars.
My sovereign fidelity.
My cried anger.
My thoughts sweetly shaped.
My sensuous blood burning.
My roots growing.
My meaningful silence.
My failed recognition.
My wounded moment.
My imaginary garden.
My clear sky.
My green mountain pool.
My everything and
My eventual years of nothing.

From Greenland. Copyright © Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd., 2003

 
WATERMARK

Everything I write
from my heart
bears an impression of you.

An intaglio, a watermark
pressed into the paper.
The fingerprint on a glass.
The footsteps in the snow.

Nothing I do
is without the image of you.
A feeling burning deep
and subconsciously within.

From Baltic Hours. Copyright © Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd., 1999.

 
SEVEN DAYS

In these dreams, I have
built a place.
You throughout—and
a house in the mountains
with a small bed and a window
and the sound of a rushing stream.

Something happens here—
where the sky can be touched

by the shadows of years,
three flights from where
the soul strives to reconcile
the span of heaven.

And, by the day beyond,
to see you coming and going,
half of you along the roadside,
the other half immersed in a dream.

From Baltic Hours. Copyright ©1996 Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd.

 
APOTHEOSIS

Beate Beatrix

Beauty, your eyes esoteric.
Antibiotic, subtle, hypnotic.

Deliver me the prosaic.
A trance sublime aesthetic.

Love, the wondrous illogic.
Utopian, ethereal, erotic.

The mind, the essence, the tragic.
For Dionysiac pleasures enigmatic.

Behold, these poisoned night erratic!
Born on the catafalque; destined nomadic.

Summons an awareness; sensuous, hygienic.
Seize me, Aphrodite, your eyes pyretic!

Clothe me, my beloved, symphonic.
Illuminated, radiant, volcanic.

The visions, mystic ecstatic.
Inscribed upon this soul, emblematic.

For you, my betrothed, apocalyptic.
An embrace, unconscious, paralytic.

From Baltic Hours. Copyright ©1996 Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd.

 
RING XXVIII

tonight, a brutal sky
meteors fell like random rain
we ran out to collect them
each one forty times the value of gold

I stare with glazing eyes
sputtering laughter
numb with grief and broken with promises
the fat sky struggles
with the foul rain
a crescent moon, a haze
shadows formed by the
dim-lit moan
a sieve of memory
that cannot be saved

From Rings Around Saturn. Copyright ©2014 Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd.

 
RING XLI

on the journey to Naxos
we sailed past
Odysseus tied to a ship’s mast
several capsized islands
the goddess Athena holding
an olive branch
the lighthouse of Alexandria
nightmares in Constantinople
hallucinations and other strange phenomena
depth-dark sobbing
angels with lonely hearts
many idols and solitary hours
strange men that once adored you
forsaken pools of green grass
rose-stalked blossoming parterres
mountains that had vanished into the sea
more islands from where we heard
the sound of the Sirens calling to Odysseus
the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus reconstructed in clouds
memories released from the thin membranes of a dream
incomprehensible volcanoes
swarms of bees and birds
wrapping both body and soul in a fatal lethargy
and there was more
unchartered shipping lanes navigated for the first time
winged maidens and other sea deities as well as
mermans, some winged others not, beckoning
from tragic cliffs
a tiny Orthodox church perched on
an outcrop in the middle of the sea of nowhere
drifting clouds, passing storms, and more birds
the salt-scented sea gale at our backs
a sleepless raft cast adrift
Homer’s “pains that the Greeks and the Trojans
once endured”
old eternities starting to struggle like
a young year born on the Earth for the first time
“On the starboard,” yelled one sailor
“the whole Island of Paros burns in the night”
in the twilight, we saw burning ships trying to escape
heaps of corpses rotting away
rags of skin shriveling on our bones
but our divine nature kept us alive—
once and for all
in our stretched astonishment
all things, lived experiences and dreamed sequences
striding together, once singularly, now blend as a whole
in the imagined realm of one’s greater life destiny

From Rings Around Saturn. Copyright ©2014 Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd.

 
RING LIX

the returning bird
never forgets
tomorrow is an illusion
and so was yesterday
the sea, the bird, this
runaway wind
only the returning bird
remembers

the returning bird
never forgets
today is the day
of your burning
everything you have
ever written
every word, every feeling
every emotion
strangers pass by and
ignite the fires

the returning bird
never forgets
a lover’s dream, a caress
whoever wants to stand
or stalk, scarcely lingers
allow them

the returning bird
never forgets
the feel of the wind
under the wing
the salt of the sea
the scent of a rain
on the fields
the love of a sparrow
that sudden surprise
of discovery

the returning bird
never forgets

From Rings Around Saturn. Copyright ©2014 Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd.

 
BOOKS

Rings Around Saturn
An anthology of poems by
Christian Narkiewicz-Laine
paperback (Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd.)
298 pages
ISBN 0-935119-39-6
Praxis
Recent art 2012-2014 by
Christian Narkiewicz-Laine
paperback (Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd.)
218 pages
ISBN 0-935119-44-2

 
All poems on this post: © Christian Narkiewicz-Laine
Published with the permission of Christian Narkiewicz-Laine