Archive for January, 2015


My love,

I can endure everything away from you. One I can’t: waking up next to your vacant pillow.
It’s hard to get used to coming back home alone at night but the morning wake up is unbearable.
I’m truthful to you I open my eyes and shut them right away. I don’t want to wake up. I can’t endure to stretch my arm on the empty side of the bed.
The bathroom misses the sounds of you shaving and the fragrance of your after shave.
I cover myself to the head with the bed coverings and wish light wouldn’t come, time won’t come when I’ll have to go down to the kitchen to make coffee.
In the morning!
The breakfast I prepared for you and the coffee we had together.
When I took you to the garage door and kissed you good morning.
When I looked at you as you drove the car away.
The day that has no reason to commence, no expectation for your return at night.
Every day from now on.
Day after day until I get used to it.

Το πρωινό ξύπνημα

Αγάπη μου!
Όλα μπορώ να τ’ αντέξω μακριά σου. Το μόνο που δεν αντέχεται είναι το πρωινό ξύπνημα δίπλα στο άδειο σου μαξιλάρι.
Είναι δύσκολο να συνηθίσω το βράδυ που γυρίζω σπίτι μόνη, αλλά το πρωινό ξύπνημα είναι ανυπόφορο.
Αλήθεια σου λέω, ανοίγω τα μάτια μου και τα ξανακλείνω αμέσως. Δε θέλω να ξυπνήσω. Δεν αντέχω ν’ απλώσω το χέρι μου στην άδεια μεριά του κρεβατιού.
Απ’ το μπάνιο λείπει η μυρωδιά του πρωινού ξυρίσματος και της κολόνιας σου.
Κουκουλώνομαι ξανά στα σκεπάσματα κι εύχομαι να μην έρθει η μέρα, να μην περάσει η ώρα, να μην πρέπει να σηκωθώ επιτέλους και να κατέβω στην άδεια κουζίνα να κάνω καφέ.
Το πρωινό!
Αυτό το πρωινό που σου ετοίμαζα κι ο καφές που πίναμε μαζί.
Που σε κατέβαζα μέχρι την πόρτα του γκαράζ και σε φιλούσα για καλημέρα.
Που σε κοίταγα μετά να φεύγεις με τ’ αυτοκίνητο.
Η μέρα, που δεν έχει πια νόημα ν’ αρχίσει, χωρίς την προσμονή της βραδινής επιστροφής σου.
Η κάθε μέρα, από ’δω και μπρος.
Μέρα με τη μέρα, μέχρι να τη συνηθίσω κι αυτή.

~From the book “Can you hear me?” by Tzoutzi Mantzourani/ Translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, summer 2015

Ritsos_front large

Yannis Ritsos – Poems

A careful hand is needed to translate the poems of Yannis Ritsos, and Manolis is the ideal poet to undertake such an enormous task. Born in Crete, Manolis’s youth was intermingled with the poetry of Ritsos. Once a young man moved by the Theodorakis version of Epitaphios, he’s now a successful poet in his own right who is still moved to tears hearing the refrains of those notes from half a century ago. His Greek heritage, with its knowledge of the terrain, people, history and cultural themes, makes his translation all the more true to what Ritsos intended. Having visited the very places of which Ritsos wrote, he knows how the light and sea shift, and how Ritsos imagined those changes as being a temperament and personality of the Greece itself. The parallels in their lives are uncanny: when Ritsos was imprisoned, Manolis’ father also was imprisoned on false charges. Both men dealt with the forces of dictators and censorship, and experienced the cruel and unreasoning forces of those times. In fact, they even lived for a time in the same neighborhood. In his foreword to Poems, Manolis relates that he viewed him as a comrade, one whose “work resonated with our intense passion for our motherland and also in our veracity and strong-willed quest to find justice for all Greeks.” In Poems, Manolis chose to honor Ritsos first by not just picking and choosing a few titles to translate, although that might have been far easier. Instead, he undertook the complex task of translating fifteen entire books of Ritsos work-an endeavor that took years of meticulous research and patience. It should be noted that along with the translation, edited by Apryl Leaf, that he also includes a significant Introduction that gives a reader unfamiliar with Ritsos an excellent background on the poet from his own perspective. Dated according to when Ritsos composed them, it’s fascinating to see how some days were especially productive for him. These small details are helpful in understanding the context and meaning. For example, in Notes on the Margins of Time, written from 1938-1941, Ritsos explores the forces of war that are trickling into even the smallest villages. Without direct commentary, he alludes to trains, blood, and the sea that takes soldiers away, seldom to return. Playing an active role in these violent times, the moon observes all, and even appears as a thief ready to steal life from whom it is still new. From “In the Barracks”:

The moon entered the barracks It rummaged in the soldiers’ blankets Touched an undressed arm Sleep Someone talks in his sleep Someone snores A shadow gesture on the long wall The last trolley bus went by Quietness

Can all these be dead tomorrow? Can they be dead from right now?

A soldier wakes up He looks around with glassy eyes A thread of blood hangs from the moon’s lips

In Romiosini, the postwar years are a focus (1945-1947), and they have not been kind. The seven parts to this piece each reflect a soldier’s journey home.

These trees don’t take comfort in less sky These rocks don’t take comfort under foreigners’ Footsteps These faces don’t’ take comfort but only In the sun These hearts don’t take comfort except in justice.

The return to his country is marked by bullet-ridden walls, burnt-out homes, decay, and the predominantly female populace, one that still hears the bombs falling and the screams of the dead as they dully gaze about, looking for fathers, husbands, and sons. The traveler’s journey is marked by introspection and grim memories reflected on to the surfaces of places and things he thought he knew.

And now is the time when the moon kisses him sorrowfully Close to his ear The seaweed the flowerpot the stool and the stone ladder Say good evening to him And the mountains the seas and cities and the sky Say good evening to him And then finally shaking the ash off his cigarette Over the iron railing He may cry because of his assurance He may cry because of the assurance of the trees and The stars and his brothers

An entirely different feeling is found in Parentheses, composed 1946-1947. In it, healing is observed and a generosity of spirit exerts itself among those whose hearts had been previously crushed. In “Understanding”:

A woman said good morning to someone – so simple and natural Good morning… Neither division nor subtraction To be able to look outside Yourself-warmth and serenity Not to be ‘just yourself’ but ‘you too’ A small addition A small act of practical arithmetic easily understood…

On the surface, it may appear simple, a return to familiarity that may have been difficulty in times of war. Yet on another level, he appears to be referring to the unity among the Greek people-the ‘practical arithmetic’ that kept them united though their political state was volatile. Essentially timeless, his counsel goes far beyond nationalism.

Moonlight Sonata, written in 1956, is an impossibly romantic and poignant lyric poem that feels more like a short story. In it, a middle-aged woman talks to a young man in her rustic home. As he prepares to leave, she asks to walk with him a bit in the moonlight. “The moon is good –it doesn’t show my gray hair. The moon will turn my hair gold again. You won’t see the difference. Let me come with you”

Her refrain is repeated over and over as they walk, with him silent and her practically begging him to take her away from the house and its memories:

I know that everyone marches to love alone Alone to glory and to death I know it I tried it It’s of no use Let me come with you

The poem reveals her memories as well as his awkward silence, yet at the end of their journey, she doesn’t leave. Ritsos leaves the ending open: was it a dream? If not, why did she not go? What hold did the house have over her? Was it just the moonlight or a song on the radio that emboldened her?

In 1971, Ritsos wrote The Caretaker’s Desk in Athens, where he was under surveillance but essentially free. At this time he seems to be translating himself-that of how he was processing his own personal history. Already acclaimed for his work, perhaps he was uncertain of his own identity.

From “The Unknown”,

He knew what his successive disguises stood for (even with them often out of time and always vague) A fencer a herald a priest a rope-walker A hero a victim a dead Iphigenia He didn’t know The one he disguised himself as His colorful costumes Pile on the floor covering the hole of the floor And on top of the pile the carved golden mask And in the cavity of the mask the unfired pistol

If he is indeed discussing his identity, it’s with incredible honesty as to both his public persona and his private character. After all, he’d been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968 (and eight more times) and he was likely weighing, in his later years, all that he’d endured.

The beauty of this particular translation is that, while subjects and emotions change over time, they still feel united by the underlying character of Ritsos. Some translators leave their own imprint or influence, yet this feels free of such adjustment. It’s as if Ritsos’ voice itself has been translated, with the pauses, humor, and pace that identify the subtle characteristics of an individual.



Τῶν ἱερῶν Ἀγρυπνιῶν στον ναό τῆς Κοίμησης.
Τό μάτι του ξανοιγόταν ἀχάραγο γυαλί
πού νά τό λιμπιστεῖ ἡ Ἄρτεμη κάτοπτρο.
Μεσάνυχτα λάβαιναν μέσα του σχῆμα
τά ἀργυρά νομίσματα τῆς ἀστροφεγγιᾶς
τό δάσος νά πίνει μία – μία τίς ὧρες
κι ὅσες θησαύριζε θημωνιές μέ ὀνείρατα
ἡ σιωπή γαλαθηνή.
Μόνον ὅταν στήν ἄκρη του κλεφτά
χαράχτηκε τό εἴδωλο ἑνοῦ ρήσου πλουμιάρη
ἐπικράνθη ὁ ἄνεμος.
Ἔσπασε ξερά ἡ λαμπήθρα τοῦ ὕπνου
κι ἄστραψε στό σκοτάδι ὁ κόσμος.


During the Holy Vigils at the church of Dormition
his open eyes resembled unscratched glass
that Artemis would wish as mirror.
At midnight the silver coins of starry sky
took shape in his viscera
the forest drank the hours one by one
and all the haystacks treasures of dreams
silence suckled.
But when the idol of the red golden hair
appeared on its side
the wind was embittered.
The dry iris of the day shuttered
and the world shone in the darkness.

~Δημήτρη Λιαντίνη-Οι Ώρες των Άστρων/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη
~Dimitris Liantinis-Hour of the Stars/Translated by Manolis Aligizakis

George Seferis_cover


Μέμνησο λουτρών οίς ενοσφίσθης

Ξύπνησα με το μαρμάρινο τούτο κεφάλι στα χέρια
που μου εξαντλεί τους αγκώνες και δεν ξέρω πού να
Έπεφτε στο όνειρο καθώς έβγαινα από το όνειρο
Έτσι ενώθηκε η ζωή μας και θα είναι πολύ δύσκολο να

Κοιτάζω τα μάτια, μήτε ανοιχτά μήτε κλειστά
μιλώ με το στόμα που όλο γυρεύει να μιλήσει
κρατώ τα μάγουλα που ξεπέρασαν το δέρμα.
Δεν έχω άλλη δύναμη,

τα χέρια μου χάνουνται και με πλησιάζουν



Remember the baths where you were murdered

I woke up with this marble head in my hands
that exhausts my elbows and I don’t know where
to lean it.
It was falling in the dream as I was coming out of the dream
thus our lives joined and it will be very difficult for us to
separate again.

I gaze in the eyes; neither open nor closed
I speak to the mouth that keeps trying to speak
I touch the cheeks that have gone through the skin.
I don’t have any other strength;

my hands disappear and come back near me

~George Seferis-Collected Poems/translated by Manolis Aligizakis
~Γιώργου Σεφέρη-Άπαντα/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη

Το μοναδικό χειρόγραφο βιβλίο αυτού του είδους στον κόσμο. Αποτελείται από 10012 ομοιοκατάληκτους δεκαπεντασύλλαβους που αντέγραψα το 1958 σε ηλικία 11 χρονών.

Σαν μοναδικό είδος τέχνης το σπάνιο αυτό βιβλίο στην αρχική του χειρόγραφη μορφή είναι διαθέσιμο μόνον από τον εκδότη Libros Libertad για τους λάτρεις των καλών τεχνών και τους εκλεκτικούς συλλέκτες σπανίων βιβλίων. Έκδοση που αποτελείται από μόνον εκατό αριθμημένα αντίτυπα, με αφιέρωση στον εκάστοτε αγοραστή και υπογεγραμμένα από το Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη και με ασφαλισμένο τρόπο αποστολής σ’ οποιοδήποτε σημείο της υφηλίου.

Tο κάθε αντίτυπο έχει αξιολογηθεί στα 5,000 δολλάρια Καναδά.
Ακολουθεί δείγμα της γραφής μου του 1958.

The only longhand book of its kind in the entire world. Consists of 10012 fifteen syllable rhyming verses I hand copied in 1958 at the age of 11.

As a rare piece of art this book in its original longhand version and with a detailed informative piece for the English speaking art lover, is available only from the publisher Libros Libertad for the eclectic collectors of rare books and fine art. An edition of only 100 numbered copies, with a dedication to each purchaser, signed by Manolis Aligizakis and guaranteed shipment to every corner of the Globe.

Book is available at 5,000 Canadian dollars per copy.
Sample of my transcription follows.