Neo-Hellene Poets, an Anthology of Modern Greek Poetry, 1750-2018

Poem by Nanos Valaoritis


The root of a tree consumes my shape

a stone pricks my finger

and skins my brain

my eyes become prey of the leaves

owls hide behind my eyelids

my steps self-delete, stay still

become mouths among the memorial shrubs

a butterfly sucks all of my being

sparks and smoke come out of my nostrils

like the dragons who were corals in ancient times

like the thistle among the grass blades

wind whirls forget of me and deny me

flowers stick their tongues out to me

terraces walk over me

I hate the springs and I trade their wishes

I’m the favored of the waves like the pebbles

I refuse to retreat opposite the wind

to melt in the furnaces of heated baths

to burn on charcoal like a crab

to make superhuman efforts to talk

to save myself

from the conflagration I alone started

I shine like a diamond but I’m not a star

who am I then if I’m not who I am

a heavenly or earthly body, massive, fluid or airy?

Wheat Ears – Selected Poems


I know it well, he said

no one will come

to meet me at the station where

loneliness says goodbye

I know it well

for the words I spoke

bounced hopelessly off their ears

innocence of the old days turned   

into today’s consumerism

and I grew too soft to lie

so I’ll carry my leaper’s body 

over roads and slow moving paths

hollow husk of corn

windblown onto the sidewalk

where tearless Hades lurks 

I know it well, he said

joyously for the end I long

in this narrow grieving street

though before I leave

to you, my friends, I promise

the same song to repeat

next time around

Kariotakis – Polydouri, the Tragic Love Story


And lives go on until they wither

I talk of lives that gave themselves

to light, serene love, lives which

go down like babbling brooks

hiding in them this light

the sky reflects into the rivers

and the sun flows in it.

I speak of lives that gave themselves to light

about the little lives that hang

like rubies from the lips of women

like offerings that hang from

church icons, silver hearts

exquisitely humble, yet in love

with the lips of a woman.

I speak of little lives that hang.

The unsuspicious lives

that silently follow

darkened, foreign, saddened steps

image of a delicate woman

who hasn’t sensed them following

and who will lean onto the earth

and vanish silently: the unsuspicious lives

that vaguely and doubtfully pass

like stars of the morning twilight

in the thought of a morning soul

that hasn’t seen its life

withering slowly just as it ran

joyously and unfettered passing.

Lives that doubtfully and vaguely have passed.

Neo-Hellene Poets, an Anthology of Modern Greek Poetry, 1750-2018

Poem by Harris Psaras


The door we didn’t open leads

to the rose garden

to the true conflict, between the rose and the thorn

and each error a thick foliage

that hides inside it the birds from the hunter.

The world but a stage show of a travelling troupe

the director quenches his thirst stooping

in the themele. He mistook it for the mouth of the well.

Further on frogs croaked, sang

Attic tragedians with their heavy tones  

Time the flowers’ withering and its counting

cast on a healthy leg. Who has the courage?

Eve and Odoaker dared

but half way on the journey their shoulders gave up

their courage cost them Heaven and Rome

Yannis Ritsos – Poems, Selected Books, Volume II, Second Edition


(Απόσπασμα-Excerpt XXIΙΙ)

Κι ακριβώς τη στιγμή
που ’νιωθα να φαρδαίνουν τα πλευρά μου αδέσμευτα στη βαθύτερη ανάσα, ένας κόμπος
με σταματούσε· — αυτός ο μικρός Εσταυρωμένος
σκαμμένος στο στήθος μου, κι η γνώση
πως θα γυρίσω πίσω· κι ήμουν κιόλας κει μέσα, εδώ μέσα
στη θέση μου κάτω απ’ τη λάμπα, στο τραπέζι,
κοιτάζοντας πίσω απ’ τα ποτήρια, πάνω απ’ τους ώμους σας κι απ’ την αδιάφορη ματιά σας
έξω απ’ το μακρινό παράθυρο, προς τη διάφανη νύχτα όπου είχα δραπετεύσει για λίγο,
απ’ όπου είχα επιστρέψει πιο θλιμμένη, γερασμένη και σαν ταπεινωμένη
μέσα σε μια οργισμένη περηφάνια, να μετράω, να ελέγχω
με τα δικά σας μέτρα τις κινήσεις μου — να κόβω
πολύ προσεχτικά το ψωμί με το μεγάλο μαχαίρι
χωρίς να χαρακώσω το τραπεζομάντιλο ή το ξύλο,
χωρίς να γραντζουνίσω το μικρό σου δάχτυλο ούτε το δικό μου.

Θε μου, δεν την αντέχω αυτή την προσποίηση. Νιώθω
κάθε χειρονομία μου ν’ αφήνει στο ταβάνι, στο πάτωμα, στον τοίχο
ή πάνω στα έπιπλα έναν ίσκιο τεράστιο· ο ίσκιος πολλαπλασιάζεται, απλώνει,
μεγεθύνεται απ’ τη μια στιγμή στην άλλη, καθρεφτίζοντας όλες
τις μυστικές, ενδόμυχες κινήσεις μου.

At the moment

when I felt my ribs, in a borderless expansion of a deep

breath, a lump in my throat stopped me: this little

crucified engrave in my breast, and the knowledge that

I’ll return; and I was already in there, in here in my position

under the light, on the table, looking behind the glasses,

over your shoulders and your vague glance, out that

distant window to the diaphanous night from which

I had escaped for a while, from which I had returned

more sorrowful, older, and humbled, with a furious

pride, to count, to check my movements based on

your criteria — to slice the bread with the knife carefully

without drawing lines on the tablecloth or the wood,

without scratching your fingers nor mine.

God I can’t endure this pretense. I feel that each

of my gestures leaves a huge shadow on the ceiling,

the floor, the wall, or on top of the furniture; the shadow

expands, spreads, multiplies moment by moment, reflecting

all my secret, intimate movements.

Yannis Ritsos – Poems, Selected Books


Η Ελένη/Helen

Είναι κάτι παράξενες στιγμές, μοναχικές, σχεδόν αστείες. Ένας άνθρωπος
περπατάει μεσημεριάτικα φορώντας στο κεφάλι του μια καλαθούνα· το καλάθι
του κρύβει ολάκερο το πρόσωπο σα να ’ναι ακέφαλος ή μεταμφιεσμένος
μ’ ένα τεράστιο αόμματο, πολυόμματο κεφάλι. Ένας άλλος,
καθώς σεργιανάει ρεμβαστικά στο σούρουπο, σκοντάφτει κάπου, βλαστημάει,
γυρίζει πίσω, ψάχνει· — μια ελάχιστη πέτρα· τη σηκώνει· την ασπάζεται· τότε
θυμάται να κοιτάξει ολόγυρά του· απομακρύνεται ένοχα. Μια γυναίκα
χώνει το χέρι της στην τσέπη της· δε βρίσκει τίποτα· βγάζει το χέρι της,
το υψώνει, το παρατηρεί προσεχτικά, σα χνοτισμένο από την πούδρα του άδειου.

There are certain strange lonely moments almost funny A


walks at midday having a huge basket on his head

            the basket

hides his whole face as if he is headless or disguised

with an enormous eyeless plural-eyed head A different man

as he saunters romantically in the dusk stumbles on something


turns back searches – a very small stone he picks it up

           he kisses it then

he remembers to look around him he leaves as if guilty

           A woman

slips her hand in her pocket she doesn’t find anything

           takes her hand out

raises it observes it carefully as if it was steamed up by

           the powder of emptiness

Yannis Ritsos – Poems, Selected Books, Volume II, Second Edition


The horse, with straight up neck, stopped by the shore;

it looked afar, over the rough sea. You didn’t know

whether its stand was that of a jolt or carelessness,

hesitation before the wrath of the water or

knowledge of the unbridgeable.

It remained motionless for a while, only

a shiver could be seen running on its sensitive ear

and you couldn’t tell whether it was listening to

            the ocean or its shiver.

Then, with a sudden turn, it turned back, gentle and sad

and yet so snobby.

Neo-Hellene Poets, an Anthology of Modern Greek Poetry, 1750-2018

Poemj by Cloe Koutsoubelis


When Antigone leaves she always forgets something.
A lacy glove on the satin bed-sheet,
a steamy drop of lemon
on the cheek of a friend,
a stolen touch on a lover’s arm
a lip-mark on the porcelain tea-cup
when she drinks hastily.
Antigone forgets
the gauzy handkerchief moistened
by the sudden momentary tears
the little umbrella in the fragile rain.
Antigone forgets
the rustle of her dress when she walks
the fan that changes her seasons.
Antigone always forgets something
and for this she always leaves.
Only some nights

as she starts remembering things
she sprinkles ashes on her hair
buries herself in her cave
and laments for the not buried dead.

Katerina Aghelaki Rooke, Selected Poems

Erotic Poems After Death


I pass by flooded by the light

in the routine of the clouds

and suddenly I’m nailed in the soil;

a myopic ant gets close to me

leaves its burrow

its crumbles

climbs up from my nail

I’m in danger again

I’m again ready for death

with my belly, the arms…

I’m trapped

the ant wins

it carries me, bitter, dried up matter

while the cicada screams

untaught in all the passion.

Yes, the cicada

makes tangible of the day again

short but of such immenseness

and contracted.

Day of the cypress and of the creaking door

my day

first thus simple

last thus simple.

Titos Patrikios – Selected Poems



I too walked in the forests once

more hunted than a hunter

many a time I nested under a blanket

thrown on bulrush branches, other times,

being lucky, I snuggled under a tent, away

from the rain, though I never saw

a deer close up, as people who imagine

such things say, I only faced momentarily

the shining eyes of a fox, I listened to

the fast passing of the porcupine. Deer,

as most others, I’ve only seen behind

the iron cages of the National Park.