Yannis Ritsos – Poems



In this amazing collection, Manolis introduces us to the life work of Greek poet, Yannis Ritsos. This translated collection paints the poetry of a man’s life and as such it captures the great magnitude of that life lived… This collection reflects a depth and vastness that must be savoured and digested, revisited and reviewed.’

– Cathi Shaw

Translated from Greek, Libros Libertad 2010
Paperback 9 x 6 in
546 pages
ISBN: 9781926763071
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By Alan Twigg

Most of the poems in Yannis Ritsos–Poems are appearing in English translation for the first time in North America.

In an age devoid of political radicalism in poetry, a White Rock translator takes a leap of fervour.

Unsuccessfully nominated nine times for the Nobel Prize for Literature, Greek poet Yannis Ritsos (1909-1990) is little-known in North America.

Manolis Aligizakis of White Rock hopes to change that. From among Ritsos’ 46 volumes of poetry, Cretan-born Manolis (his pen name excludes the surname Aligizakis) has translated fifteen of the poet’s books for an unusually hefty volume, Yannis Ritsos–Poems (Libros Libertad $34), presenting a panorama of Ritsos’ work from the mid 1930s to the 1980s.

Manolis first encountered Ritsos’ inspiring words as a young man in Greece, in 1958, when composer Mikis Theodorakis–of Zorba the Greek fame–set to music some of Ritsos’ verses from Epitaphios–a work that had been burned by Greece’s right-wing government at the Acropolis in 1936. “I was moved in an unprecedented way by the songs,” says Manolis. “They were like a soothing caress to my young and rebellious soul at a time when the Cold War was causing deep divisions in Greece and the recent civil war had seen our country reduced to ruins.”

Yannis Ritsos was an ardent nationalist who most notably fought with the Greek resistance during the Second World War. His 117 books, poetry, novels and plays, are suffused with communist ideals. When Ritsos received the Lenin Peace Prize in 1975, he declared, “this prize is more important for me than the Nobel.”

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More information at LibrosLibertad.ca


Harbor at night

lights drown in the water

faces without memory or continuance

faces lit by passing spotlights of distant ships

and then sunken in the shadow of voyage

slant masts with hanging dream lamps

like the cracked wings of angels who sinned

the soldiers with helmets

between the night and embers

wounded arms like the forgiveness

that reached late


Prisoners tied on anchors

a ring around the horizon’s neck

and other chains there at the feet of children

and at dawn’s arms holding a daisy


And it is the masts that insist

to count the stars

with the help of calm memory

—a bouquet of seagulls in the morning blue sky


Color deserts the face of day

and light doesn’t find any statue

to dwell in  to be glorified  to becalm


Nevertheless shall we still shelter

the sun’s open wound

that springs flowers out of seeds

in the same march

in the same question

in the fertile veins of spring

that repeats the swallows’ rounds

writing erotic zeros

in the invincible firmament

Which wound

hasn’t graced us yet

that we may complement

the godliness of God?




The stars are muddy in the cistern

the cistern in the middle of the old yard

like a mirror of the closed room


The doves sit around the cistern

whitewashed flowerpots sit end-to-end in the moon

around and around our wound  our songs




The sun doesn’t think about your hesitations—

it wants you naked and it takes you naked

until the night comes to dress you


After the sun there is repentance

after repentance the sun again