The Tempest

The Tempest

A review of The Tempest by Ilona Martonfi

Published on March 16, 2023

Great poetry is always about more than oneself, even if its gaze seems insular at first. The world’s conflicts and their repercussions, from within one’s home to the international stage, are constant, as is the world’s beauty – poetry often enters the spaces between. In Ilona Martonfi’s The Tempest, truths are uncovered, revealing tendrils and roots that reach far outside one life. Martonfi’s astute and unpredictable poetry forges into painful histories and adamant renewals, laying bare an unsettling narrative that should be mandatory reading. 

somehow we smuggled out 

the common secret of violence 

distorting that unreality 


I will go now, go 

grey the colour of hope. 


Ilona Martonfi The Tempest

The Tempest
Ilona Martonfi

Inanna Publications

The Tempest roams from Martonfi’s birthplace in Budapest, to a refugee camp in Bavaria during World War II, to earthquakes in Japan, to a life in Montreal that is anything but staid and domestic. Exile and survival meet love and belonging through shared family memories and more widely cultural remembrance, all in motion together.


“I’m sorry,” you say, 

choose ugliness 

see the grey streets 

and bombed-out houses 

mirrored in chalk hills 

unfold the reed grasses 

the narrow spaces between. 

Recurring dreams in which 

your mother and you sit in a cellar 

to unremember 

summer flowers crying 

shot in black and white. 


Amid all these moments and memories endures art, the desire for freedom of artistic expression and the balm of poetry, as a writer and a reader. A seemingly strange choice and mysterious way to make sense of anything, but poetry’s an art that works, excavating the world to reveal what it’s really made of. 


I hear a small blackwater stream 

quarrelling with metaphor. 

Wetness the shape of water on skin. 

The bodies we speak of inhabiting. 

Robyn Fadden is a writer and editor based in Montreal. Formerly Arts Editor at weekly Hour, Robyn is Managing Editor of Delve at McGill University and a contributor to and CKUT 90.3FM, where she continues to extol the city and its creative forces.


1 Comment

  1. Ilona Martonfi

    A big thank you Robyn for this wonderful review of The Tempest.


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