Wheat Ears – Selected Poems

Oath

He stood at the edge of the old castle’s parapet

separating wall from void
of the hungry abyss down below
and further out the gleaming sea
splashing endless waves lapping
onto the yellow sandy beach

then he raised his arm
as if taking an oath
as if promising to come back
at another time when we’d need
one to stand against
the greed and gluttony of the few
who comfortable and fat as they were
dwelt in their satiation

the old castle that couldn’t tolerate
leaders with blinkers, creaked
as our hero insisted pointing to
the endless abyss towards the sea

and stepping on the parapet’s edge
he crossed himself over
before he flew into
the deliverance of emptiness

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George Seferis – Collected Poems

Sirocco 7 Levante

For D.I. Antoniou

Things that changed our face

deeper than thought and more so

ours like the blood and more so

sunken in the sweltering heat of noon

behind the masts.

Amid chains and commands

no one remembers.

The other days, the other nights

bodies, pain and lust

the bitterness of human nakedness in pieces

lower than the pepper trees along dusty streets

and all these charms and all these symbols

on the last branch

in the shadow of the big ship

the memory, a shade.

The hands that touched us don’t belong to us, only

deeper, when the roses darken

a rhythm under the mountain’s shadow, crickets,

moistens our silence in the night

yearning for a pelagic sleep

slipping toward the pelagic sleep.

Under the shadow of the big ship

when the winch whistled

I left tenderness to the money-changers.

Pelion, 19 August 1935

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

Η ΜΟΥΣΙΚΗ

       Καμιά φορά τα βράδια, ιδιαίτερα όταν βρέχει, ο νους μου τα-

ξιδεύει — πιο συχνά στα παιδικά μου χρόνια. Και τότε ξεπροβάλλει

ο καθηγητής του βιολιού. Φορούσε μια ξεθωριασμένη ρεντικότα και

μια περούκα μαδημένη — γελούσαμε μαζί του. Αλλά όταν μετά το

μάθημα έμπαινε η μητέρα στην κάμαρα (για χάρη της ίσως) έπαι-

ζε κάτι διαφορετικό — μια μελωδία ήρεμη και σοβαρή που μας

έκανε να σοβαρευόμαστε κι εμείς άξαφνα, σα να μαντεύαμε αόριστα

ότι στο βάθος η μουσική δεν είναι πάθος ή όνειρο, νοσταλγία ή

ρεμβασμός

      αλλά μια άλλη δικαιοσύνη.

MUSIC

     Sometimes, especially at night when it rains, my mind

travels, quite often to my childhood years. Then the violin

teacher appears. He wears a faded morning coat and his

dishevelled hair piece; we laugh at him. When my mother

enters the room after the lesson(for her perhaps) he plays

something different; an harmonious and solemn enough

melody that we suddenly get saddened as if vaguely

guessing that at depth music isn’t passion or dream,

nostalgia or reverie

    but a different kind of justice.

Wheat Ears-Selected Poems

Denial

Hesitant moonlight entered

to sit on the night table

outline of her conflagrated body

lain on the deserted bed

autumn breeze

a shameless raider

sneaked through

the half open window

to observe her two thighs

softly rubbing against each other

two fingers travelled over

her wet mound

involuntary conspiring wind

and window shutter

created the sorrowful creak

that brought her to consciousness

heart pulse bounced off

the gleaming mirror to fall

dead onto the carpet crying

unfair life even this dreamy

pleasure you denied me.

Wheat Ears-Selected Poems

Amorphous

Before I entered the uterus

I was there

smoke of a fire slowly

extinguishing

wind hitting your blue window

crack of your being

a tight grip

song of the funeral procession

before I took the shape of life

before I choose my name

I was there

scent of a red rose

the bird’s first flutter

before I entered

the trap of flesh

the softest wave of the sea

I was the lone eagle

on rocky promontory

from high up watching

over you, before I was born

I was the shapeless

free companion of infinite

a simple sigh destined

to scar your lips

There I was

a joyous chime of a bell

there I was

the indeterminable

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

POEM BY TASOS LIVADITIS

ΑΥΤΟΣ ΠΟΥ ΕΒΛΕΠΕ

      Είχε μια έκφραση μυστηριώδη, σχεδόν ανησυχητική, καθώς

κοίταζε, μέρες τώρα, σ’ ένα σημείο μέσα στην κάμαρα, στάθηκα,

λοιπόν στη σκάλα και προσπάθησα να τραβήξω την προσοχή του

κι όταν, ύστερα, χτύπησε την πόρτα και μπήκε, ήταν τόσο δυστυχι-

σμένος, που η λάμπα πήγαινε μπροστά απ’ αυτόν, μόνη της, «μα

δεν βλέπετε, λοιπόν, πώς κατοικεί μαζί μας;» είπε, οι άλλοι μιλού-

σαν δυνατά και γελούσαν (από φόβο, βέβαια) και μόνο το παιδί

καθισμένο στην άκρη κοίταζε κι εκείνο θλιμμένα στο ίδιο σημείο,

      καί σκέφτηκα ότι αυτό που μας μεγαλώνει είναι, ίσως η ίδια η

παιδικότητα, που μας διώχνει, για να μην, τελικά, εννοήσουμε.

THE ONE WHO COULD SEE

      He had a mysterious expression, almost worrisome as he looked

for days at that same spot in the room therefore I stopped by the stairs

and tried to catch his attention and when he rang the doorbell and

entered he was so miserable the lamp walked ahead of him on

its own “but you don’t see him, he lives with us” he said; the others

talked and laughed loudly (because of their fear of course) and only

the boy sat at the edge and also in sadness looked at the same point

     and I thought what makes us old is, perhaps, the same childhood

that pushes us away so, after all, we won’t understand.

Swamped, a novel by Manolis Aligizakis

Excerpt

             It’s a dark windy night. Eteocles is about three years old, Nicolas five, and their mother as old as the worry about how to feed her children has made her, as old as any mother who lives in the ruins of war, a woman whose husband is on the front line. It’s a windy night, and the gaps around the frame of the door and the lone window make an apocalyptic music, as if the inhabitants of this hovel are walking through the hallways of hell. Eteocles remembers the scene well. They are sitting around the metal bucket their mother has made into a heating element. She burns wood in it, and the heat reaches out perhaps a meter all around it. They are sitting warming themselves, listening to the wrath of the tempest just a few meters away beyond the frames of the single door and the courageous lone window to the north.

       Suddenly from the deadly war of the elements outside a sudden wind floods the room as the door opens. A man stands in the frame gazing inside. It’s their father returning from the war. He stands there for long time, not knowing what to say, how to greet them; he hasn’t seen them for thirty six long months. Their mother lets out a cry, a cry that sounds like the name of the standing man, her husband, the man who had gone to war when Eteocles was just a few months old. Her husband is home at last, and she gets up and calls him inside and walks up to him and hugs him with a fierceness that expresses the emotional volcano boiling inside her. She hugs him for a long time, then she pulls away, and their father kneels and calls his sons to him. Neither of them dares approach this stranger. Eteocles doesn’t know this man at all, while Nicolas, who was two years old when his father left his sons, perhaps has some faint memory of him.  

Neither of the two dare move toward the man in soldier’s clothes who calls them again and again until Eteocles observes his feet making small steps toward the open arms of their father and Nicolas follows soon after. The soldier clings tightly to them, saying words the two brothers only feel, the soothing words of a father who has missed his sons, a man who had gone to war without knowing if he would ever see them again. They feel those words, and they cuddle with the man who has come inside their house and ignore the wind that has entered with him and turned the room into a frozen habitat in which the small metal bucket with the burning wood cannot warm more than a meter in diameter around it.

Yannis Ritsos-Poems, Selected books, Volume II

ΦΙΛΟΚΤΗΤΗΣ//PHILOCTETES

by Yannis Ritsos/Translated by Manolis Aligizakis

Κι ήτανε κιόλας σα ν’ ακούγαμε τα μυστικά πελέκια μες στο δάσος
να κόβουν ξύλα. Ακούγαμε το μέγα γδούπο, όταν σωριάζονταν
ένα δέντρο στο χώμα, και τη σιωπή τρομαγμένη
να κρύβεται πίσω απ’ τους ώμους μας. Κι ήταν σα να ’βλεπα κιόλας
τον Δούρειο Ίππο, κούφιον, θεόρατο, να λάμπει επικίνδυνος
μες στην αστροφεγγιά, θρησκευτικός σχεδόν, ενώ η σκιά του
εκτεινόταν μυθική στα τείχη. Κι ένιωθα κιόλας
σα να βρισκόμουν μες στο κούφωμα του αλόγου, μαζί με τους άλλους,
ολομόναχος, σε άβολη στάση, μέσα στο λαιμό του αλόγου,
και να κοιτάζω με τ’ άδεια του μάτια τη γυάλινη νύχτα,
σαν κρεμασμένος μες στο χάος, γνωρίζοντας
πως η χαίτη που ανέμιζε πάνω απ’ τον αυχένα μου
δεν ήταν δική μου, — ούτε κι η νίκη, φυσικά. Ωστόσο ετοιμαζόμουνα
για το τεράστιο, μάταιο άλμα μέσα στο άγνωστο.

Έτσι, σ’ αυτή τη στάση, εκεί ψηλά, μέσα στο σανιδένιο λαρύγγι του αλόγου,
θα ’νιωθα καταβροχθισμένος, κι όμως ζωντανός, να εποπτεύω
τ’ αντίπαλα στρατόπεδα, τις φωτιές, τα καράβια, τ’ αστέρια,
όλο το οικείο, το τρομερό, τ’ αναρίθμητο θαύμα —όπως λένε— του κόσμου,
σα να ’μαι μπουκιά σταματημένη στο λαρύγγι του απείρου και ταυτόχρονα μια γέφυρα
πάνω από δυο, το ίδιο απόκρημνες κι άγνωστες, όχθες —
μια γέφυρα ψεύτικη, βέβαια, από ξύλο και πικρή πανουργία.
(Από κει πάνω, θαρρώ, μες σ’ έναν τέτοιο εφιάλτη,
αγνάντεψα πρώτη φορά την πραϋντική λάμψη των όπλων σου).


And it was as if we were already hearing the secret axes

in the forest cutting wood. We could hear the big thump

when a tree fell on the ground and silence, in fear,

hiding behind our shoulders. And it was as if I was seeing

the Trojan Horse gleaming in the starlight, huge, hollow,

dangerous, almost religious, while its shadow spread

on the walls like a fable. And I felt as if I was already

in the cavity of the Horse along with the others, in an

awkward position in the horse’s neck, all alone, seeing

the crystal night through its empty eyes

as if I was hanging over the void, and knowing that

it wasn’t my nape that waved but the horse’s mane,

nor was the victory, of course. Yet I prepared myself

for the endless, futile leap into the unknown.

In this position, high above, in the plank-lined throat

of the horse, I truly felt swallowed, and yet alive and

I observed the enemy camp, the fires, the ships, the stars

all that familiar miracle, as it was called, the horrible,

incalculable miracle of the world, as if I was a morsel

of food stuck in the throat of infinity and at the same time

a bridge over two embankments equally unknown and

precipitous, a false bridge, of course, made of wood

              and bitter cunningness.  

(from that high vantage position, I think, in such

a nightmare I first noticed the soothing brilliance

             of your weapons.)

Nostos and Algos//Powrot I Bol

Με ιδιαίτερη χαρά έμαθα ότι το βιβλίο ποίησης μου Νόστος και Άλγος, σε μετάφραση στην Πολωνική από τους Mirek Grudzien και Gosia Zurecka, μόλις εκδόθηκε στην πόλη Rzeszow από τους εκδότες Podkarpacki Institut. Ευχαριστώ πολύ τους μεταφραστές και τον εκδότη για την καλαίσθητη έκδοση

I’m pleased to inform all my friends that my poetry book Nostos and Algos, translated in Polish by Mirek Grudzien and Gosia Zurecka was just released in the city of Rzeszow in Poland by the publishers Podkarpacki Institut. Thank you to both the translators and the publisher for the beautiful release.

Θεωρώ το Νόστος και Άλγος σαν το πιο πετυχυμένο μου βιβλίο ποίησης αφού μεταφράστηκε σε 6 γλώσσες κι εκδόθηκε σε 6 χώρες. Στα ελληνικά με τίτλο Φυλλορροές, από τις εκδόσεις Ένεκεν στη Θεσσαλονίκη.

I consider Nostos and Algos my most successful poetry book since it has been translated into 6 different languages and published in six different countries of the world.

‘Neo-Hellene Poets an Anthology of Modern Greek Poetry 1750-2018. A Review’ by P.W. Bridgman

Important aspects of so many of our cultural institutions in North America and Western Europe can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks. We were taught that inescapable truth in our school classrooms and we have read it in our history books. And yet, for some reason, we in the West have been less mindful of modern Greek history and modern Greek literature in particular. There may have been a brief brush with Seferis during a second- or third-year poetry course at university, yes. And one perhaps recalls a fleeting encounter with Cavafy in an anthology of modern world literature in translation. Perhaps. But most of us are woefully ignorant of the great wealth of poetry that has proliferated in Greece since the mid-1700s. Manolis’ book of translations of the works of many, many diverse poetic voices from the modern era in Greece thus constitutes a great gift. He has given us—handily assembled between the two covers of Neo-Hellene Poets: An Anthology of Modern Greek Poetry, 1750-2018—a ready resource to which we may now turn in order to make up that glaring lacuna that exists in our cultural education. Poems that are orderly and formal, and poems that are unruly and unbounded; works steeped in tradition and works that are wildly innovative; verse that is serious and sentimental, and verse that is droll and irreverent; it’s all there. The modern Greek poetic tapestry is multi-coloured, artful and highly textured and it deserves far more attention that it has gotten to date from scholars and from other members of Western societies who turn to poetry for pleasure and inspiration but cannot read or speak Greek. We must be thankful to Manolis for opening a door that has been effectively closed for three centuries. At last, English speakers and readers can feast at a long-overlooked table, a table well laden with many exotic literary delights. Mr. Waiter, would you please bring us the wine list?

P.W. Bridgman, author, poet.

View the book: Neo-Hellene Poets – An Anthology of Modern Greek Poetry 1750-2018’ by Manolis Aligizakis