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ΡΩΜΙΟΣΥΝΗ (Απόσπασμα)

V

Κάτσανε κάτου απ᾿ τις ελιὲς το απομεσήμερο
κοσκινίζοντας το σταχτὶ φως με τα χοντρά τους δάχτυλα
βγάλανε τις μπαλάσκες τους και λογαριάζαν πόσος μόχτος χώρεσε στο μονοπάτι της νύχτας
πόση πίκρα στον κόμπο της αγριομολόχας
πόσο κουράγιο μες στα μάτια του ξυπόλυτου παιδιού που κράταε τη σημαία.

Είχε απομείνει πάρωρα στον κάμπο το στερνὸ χελιδόνι
ζυγιαζόταν στον αέρα σα μία μαύρη λουρίδα στο μανίκι του φθινοπώρου.
Τίποτ᾿ άλλο δεν έμενε. Μονάχα κάπνιζαν ακόμα τα καμένα σπίτια.
Οι άλλοι μας άφησαν απὸ καιρὸ κάτου απ᾿ τις πέτρες
με το σκισμένο τους πουκάμισο και με τον όρκο τους γραμμένο στην πεσμένη πόρτα.
Δεν έκλαψε κανείς. Δεν είχαμε καιρό. Μόνο που η σιγαλιὰ μεγάλωνε πολὺ
κ᾿ είταν το φως συγυρισμένο κάτου στο γιαλὸ σαν το νοικοκυριὸ της σκοτωμένης.

Τί θα γίνουν τώρα όταν θα `ρθει η βροχὴ μες στο χώμα με τα σάπια πλατανόφυλλα
τί θα γίνουν όταν ο ήλιος στεγνώσει στο χράμι της συγνεφιάς σαν σπασμένος κοριὸς στο χωριάτικο κρεββάτι
όταν σταθεί στην καμινάδα του απόβραδου μπαλσαμωμένο το λελέκι του χιονιού;
Ρίχνουνε αλάτι οι γριὲς μανάδες στη φωτιά, ρίχνουνε χώμα στα μαλλιά τους
ξερρίζωσαν τ᾿ αμπέλια της Μονοβασιάς μη και γλυκάνει μαύρη ρώγα των εχτρών το στόμα,
βάλαν σ᾿ ένα σακκούλι των παππούδων τους τα κόκκαλα μαζὶ με τα μαχαιροπήρουνα
και ταριγυρνάνε έξω απ᾿ τα τείχη της πατρίδας τους ψάχνοντας τόπο να ριζώσουνε στη νύχτα.

Θάναι δύσκολο τώρα να βρούμε μία γλώσσα πιο της κερασιάς, λιγότερο δυνατή, λιγότερο πέτρινη –
τα χέρια εκείνα που απομείναν στα χωράφια ή απάνου στα βουνὰ ή κάτου απ᾿ τη θάλασσα, δεν ξεχνάνε –
θάναι δύσκολο να ξεχάσουμε τα χέρια τους
θάναι δύσκολο τα χέρια πούβγαλαν κάλους στη σκανδάλη να ρωτήσουν μία μαργαρίτα
να πουν ευχαριστώ πάνου στο γόνατο τους, πάνου στο βιβλίο ή μες στο μπούστο της αστροφεγγιάς.
Θα χρειαστεί καιρός. Και πρέπει να μιλήσουμε. Ώσπου να βρουν το ψωμὶ και το δίκιο τους.

Δυο κουπιὰ καρφωμένα στον άμμο τα χαράματα με τη φουρτούνα. Πούναι η βάρκα;
Ένα αλέτρι μπηγμένο στο χώμα, κι ο αγέρας να φυσάει. Καμένο το χώμα. Πούναι ο ζευγολάτης;
Στάχτη η ελιά, τ᾿ αμπέλι και το σπίτι.
Βραδιὰ σπαγγοραμμένη με τ᾿ αστέρια της μες στο τσουράπι.
Δάφνη ξερὴ και ρίγανη στο μεσοντούλαπο του τοίχου. Δεν τ᾿ άγγιξε η φωτιά.
Καπνισμένο τσουκάλι στο τζάκι – και να κοχλάζει μόνο το νερὸ στο κλειδωμένο σπίτι. Δεν πρόφτασαν να φάνε.

Απάνω στο καμένο τους πορτόφυλλο οι φλέβες του δάσους – τρέχει το αίμα μες στις φλέβες.
Και να το βήμα γνώριμο. Ποιὸς είναι;
Γνώριμο βήμα με τις πρόκες στον ανήφορο.

Το σύρσιμο της ρίζας μες στην πέτρα. Κάποιος έρχεται.
Το σύνθημα, το παρασύνθημα. Αδελφός. Καλησπέρα.
Θα βρει λοιπὸν το φως τα δέντρα του, θα βρει μία μέρα και το δέντρο τον καρπό του.
Του σκοτωμένου το παγούρι έχει νερὸ και φως ακόμα.
Καλησπέρα, αδερφέ μου. Το ξέρεις. Καλησπέρα.

Στην ξύλινη παράγκα της πουλάει μπαχαρικὰ και ντεμισέδες η γριὰ δύση.
Κανεὶς δεν αγοράζει. Τράβηξαν ψηλά.
Δύσκολο πια να χαμηλώσουν.
Δύσκολο και να πουν το μπόι τους.

Μέσα στ᾿ αλώνι όπου δειπνήσαν μία νυχτιὰ τα παλληκάρια
μένουνε τα λιοκούκουτσα και το αίμα το ξερό του φεγγαριού
κι ο δεκαπεντασύλλαβος απ᾿ τ᾿ άρματα τους.
Την άλλη μέρα τα σπουργίτια φάγανε τα ψίχουλα της κουραμάνας τους,
τα παιδιὰ φτιάξανε παιχνίδια με τα σπίρτα τους που ανάψαν τα τσιγάρα τους και τ᾿ αγκάθια τῶν άστρων.

Κ᾿ η πέτρα όπου καθήσαν κάτου απ᾿ τις ελιὲς το απομεσήμερο αντικρὺ στη θάλασσα
αύριο θα γίνει ασβέστης στο καμίνι
μεθαύριο θ᾿ ασβεστώσουμε τα σπίτια μας και το πεζούλι της Αγιὰ-Σωτήρας
αντιμεθαύριο θα φυτέψουμε το σπόρο εκεί που αποκοιμήθηκαν
κ᾿ ένα μπουμπούκι της ροδιάς θα σκάσει πρώτο γέλιο του μωρού στον κόρφο της λιακάδας.
Κ᾿ ύστερα πια θα κάτσουμε στην πέτρα να διαβάσουμε όλη την καρδιά τους
σα να διαβάζουμε πρώτη φορὰ την ιστορία του κόσμου.

 

 

ROMIOSINI (Excerpt)

 

V

 

They sat under the olive trees in early afternoon sieving the gray light with their big fingers

they took off their cartridge belts and measured the anguish fitting the path of night

how much bitterness fits in the wild mallow’s knot

how much courage in the eyes of a shoeless child holding up the flag

 

Past its time the last swallow remained in the plains weighed himself in midair like a black band

on the sleeve of autumn

Nothing else remained; only the burnt up houses smoldering.

The others who left us some time ago lay under the rocks

with their ripped shirts and their oaths written on the fallen door

No one cried – we had no time; only silence became deeper

and the light gathered down the shore like the

orderly house of the dead woman.

 

What will become of them when the rain comes amid the rotten plane leaves in the soil?

What will happen to them when the sun dries up in a blanket of cloud

like a crushed bug in a villager’s bed?

when the snow stork stands embalmed on the chimney of last night?

Old mothers scatter salt in the fire they scatter soil over their hair

they have uprooted the grapevines of Monemvasia so that not a black grape

will ever sweeten the enemy’s mouth

they placed in a sack the grandfather’s bones along with their knives and forks

and they go around outside the walls of their country looking

where to grow roots in the night.

 

It’ll be hard to find a tongue less powerful less stony than the cherry tree’s –

those hands that were left in the fields or up on the mountains or down under the sea

do not forget they never forget –

it’ll be difficult for us to forget their hands

it’ll be hard for the hands that grew calluses on the trigger to ask a daisy

to say thank you on their knees or on the book or in the bosom of the starlight

it will take time and we need to speak up until they find their bread and their rights.

 

Two oars rooted down in the sand at dawn in rough seas. Where’s the boat?

A plow embedded in the soil and the wind blowing

burnt up earth Where is the plowman?

Ashes the olive tree the grapevine and the house

Night stitched on with her stars inside the sock

Dried laurel leaves and oregano in the middle-self on the wall Fire couldn’t reach it

smoked up cooking pot in the fire – and the water boils by itself in the locked up house.

They had no time to eat

 

The forest’s veins on their burnt door leaf – blood flows in the veins

And here is the familiar footstep. Who’s he?

Familiar footsteps going uphill the nails of their soles.

 

Crawl of root in the rock. Someone’s coming

The password the response a brother, good evening

So then light will find its trees the tree will find its fruit

the flask of the killed still has water and light

Good evening my brother Good evening.

 

The old Lady West sells herbs and embroidery in her wooden shack

no one buys them. They’ve reached up high.

It’s difficult for them to come down anymore.

It’s difficult for them to fit in their own height.

 

On the threshing floor where the braves ate one night

the olive pits and the dry blood of the moon remain

and their fifteen-syllabic armory

the cypresses and laurels remain all around

Next day sparrows ate the crumbs of their army bread

children made toys out of the matches

that lit their cigarettes and the stars’ thorns

 

And the rock where they sat under olive trees in the afternoon opposite the sea

it will become whitewash in the kiln tomorrow

day after we’ll paint our houses and the bench of Saint Savior

the day after that we’ll plant the seed where they fell asleep

and a pomegranate bud will flash its first baby smile on the breast of sunshine

After that we’ll sit on the soil to read all their hearts

as if we read from the world history for the first time.

ΑΝΘΟΛΟΓΙΑ ΝΕΟΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗΣ ΠΟΙΗΣΗΣ: 1550-2017, μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη, Ekstasis Editions, Victoria, BC, 2018

NEO — HELLENE POETS, An Anthology of Modern Greek Poetry: 1550-2017, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Ekstasis Editions, Victoria, BC, 2018

 

aaristo001p1

ARISTOTLE

  1. Ethics

Standard interpretations of Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics usually maintain that Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.) emphasizes the role of habit in conduct. It is commonly thought that virtues, according to Aristotle, are habits and that the good life is a life of mindless routine.

These interpretations of Aristotle’s ethics are the result of imprecise translations from the ancient Greek text. Aristotle uses the word hexis to denote moral virtue. But the word does not merely mean passive habituation. Rather, hexis is an active condition, a state in which something must actively hold itself.

Virtue, therefore, manifests itself in action. More explicitly, an action counts as virtuous, according to Aristotle, when one holds oneself in a stable equilibrium of the soul, in order to choose the action knowingly and for its own sake. This stable equilibrium of the soul is what constitutes character.

Similarly, Aristotle’s concept of the mean is often misunderstood. In the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle repeatedly states that virtue is a mean. The mean is a state of clarification and apprehension in the midst of pleasures and pains that allows one to judge what seems most truly pleasant or painful. This active state of the soul is the condition in which all the powers of the soul are at work in concert. Achieving good character is a process of clearing away the obstacles that stand in the way of the full efficacy of the soul.

For Aristotle, moral virtue is the only practical road to effective action. What the person of good character loves with right desire and thinks of as an end with right reason must first be perceived as beautiful. Hence, the virtuous person sees truly and judges rightly, since beautiful things appear as they truly are only to a person of good character. It is only in the middle ground between habits of acting and principles of action that the soul can allow right desire and right reason to make their appearance, as the direct and natural response of a free human being to the sight of the beautiful. 

  1. Habit

In many discussions, the word “habit” is attached to the Ethics as though it were the answer to a multiple-choice question on a philosophy achievement test. Hobbes‘ Leviathan? Self-preservation. Descartes‘ Meditations? Mind-body problem. Aristotle’s Ethics? Habit. A faculty seminar I attended a few years ago was mired in the opinion that Aristotle thinks the good life is one of mindless routine. More recently, I heard a lecture in which some very good things were said about Aristotle’s discussion of choice, yet the speaker still criticized him for praising habit when so much that is important in life depends on openness and spontaneity. Can it really be that Aristotle thought life is lived best when thinking and choosing are eliminated?

On its face this belief makes no sense. It is partly a confusion between an effect and one of its causes. Aristotle says that, for the way our lives turn out, “it makes no small difference to be habituated this way or that way straight from childhood, but an enormous difference, or rather all the difference.” (1103b, 23-5) Is this not the same as saying those lives are nothing but collections of habits? If this is what sticks in your memory, and leads you to that conclusion, then the cure is easy, since habits are not the only effects of habituation, and a thing that makes all the difference is indispensable but not necessarily the only cause of what it produces.

We will work through this thought in a moment, but first we need to notice that another kind of influence may be at work when you recall what Aristotle says about habit, and another kind of medicine may be needed against it. Are you thinking that no matter how we analyze the effects of habituation, we will never get around the fact that Aristotle plainly says that virtues are habits? The reply to that difficulty is that he doesn’t say that at all. He says that moral virtue is a hexis. Hippocrates Apostle, and others, translate hexis as habit, but that is not at all what it means. The trouble, as so often in these matters, is the intrusion of Latin. The Latin habitus is a perfectly good translation of the Greek hexis, but if that detour gets us to habit in English we have lost our way. In fact, a hexisis pretty much the opposite of a habit.

The word hexis becomes an issue in Plato‘s Theaetetus. Socrates makes the point that knowledge can never be a mere passive possession, stored in the memory the way birds can be put in cages. The word for that sort of possession, ktÎsis, is contrasted with hexis, the kind of having-and-holding that is never passive but always at work right now. Socrates thus suggests that, whatever knowledge is, it must have the character of a hexis in requiring the effort of concentrating or paying attention. A hexis is an active condition, a state in which something must actively hold itself, and that is what Aristotle says a moral virtue is.

Some translators make Aristotle say that virtue is a disposition, or a settled disposition. This is much better than calling it a “habit,” but still sounds too passive to capture his meaning. In De Anima, when Aristotle speaks of the effect produced in us by an object of sense perception, he says this is not a disposition (diathesis) but a hexis. (417b, 15-17) His whole account of sensing and knowing depends on this notion that receptivity to what is outside us depends on an active effort to hold ourselves ready. In Book VII of the Physics, Aristotle says much the same thing about the way children start to learn: they are not changed, he says, nor are they trained or even acted upon in any way, but they themselves get straight into an active state when time or adults help them settle down out of their native condition of disorder and distraction. (247b, 17-248a, 6) Curtis Wilson once delivered a lecture at St. John’s College, in which he asked his audience to imagine what it would be like if we had to teach children to speak by deliberately and explicitly imparting everything they had to do. We somehow set them free to speak, and give them a particular language to do it in, but they–Mr. Wilson called them “little geniuses”–they do all the work.

Everyone at St. John’s has thought about the kind of learning that does not depend on the authority of the teacher and the memory of the learner. In the Meno it is called “recollection.” Aristotle says that it is an active knowing that is always already at work in us. In Plato’s image we draw knowledge up out of ourselves; in Aristotle’s metaphor we settle down into knowing. In neither account is it possible for anyone to train us, as Gorgias has habituated Meno into the mannerisms of a knower. Habits can be strong but they never go deep. Authentic knowledge does engage the soul in its depths, and with this sort of knowing Aristotle links virtue. In the passage cited from Book VII of the Physics, he says that, like knowledge, virtues are not imposed on us as alterations of what we are; that would be, he says, like saying we alter a house when we put a roof on it. In the Categories, knowledge and virtue are the two examples he gives of what hexis means (8b, 29); there he says that these active states belong in the general class of dispositions, but are distinguished by being lasting and durable. The word “disposition” by itself he reserves for more passive states, easy to remove and change, such as heat, cold, and sickness.

In the Ethics, Aristotle identifies moral virtue as a hexis in Book II, chapter 4. He confirms this identity by reviewing the kinds of things that are in the soul, and eliminating the feelings and impulses to which we are passive and the capacities we have by nature, but he first discovers what sort of thing a virtue is by observing that the goodness is never in the action but only in the doer. This is an enormous claim that pervades the whole of the Ethics, and one that we need to stay attentive to. No action is good or just or courageous because of any quality in itself. Virtue manifests itself in action, Aristotle says, only when one acts while holding oneself in a certain way. This is where the word hexis comes into the account, from pÙs echÙn, the stance in which one holds oneself when acting. The indefinite adverb is immediately explained: an action counts as virtuous when and only when one holds oneself in a stable equilibrium of the soul, in order to choose the action knowingly and for its own sake. I am translating as “in a stable equilibrium” the words bebaiÙs kai ametakinÍtÙs; the first of these adverbs means stably or after having taken a stand, while the second does not mean rigid or immovable, but in a condition from which one can’t be moved all the way over into a different condition. It is not some inflexible adherence to rules or duty or precedent that is conveyed here, but something like a Newton’s wheel weighted below the center, or one of those toys that pops back upright whenever a child knocks it over.

This stable equilibrium of the soul is what we mean by having character. It is not the result of what we call “conditioning.” There is a story told about B. F. Skinner, the psychologist most associated with the idea of behavior modification, that a class of his once trained him to lecture always from one corner of the room, by smiling and nodding whenever he approached it, but frowning and faintly shaking their heads when he moved away from it. That is the way we acquire habits. We slip into them unawares, or let them be imposed on us, or even impose them on ourselves. A person with ever so many habits may still have no character. Habits make for repetitive and predictable behavior, but character gives moral equilibrium to a life. The difference is between a foolish consistency wholly confined to the level of acting, and a reliability in that part of us from which actions have their source. Different as they are, though, character and habit sound to us like things that are linked, and in Greek they differ only by the change of an epsilon to an eta, making Íthos from ethos

We are finally back to Aristotle’s claim that character, Íthos, is produced by habit, ethos. It should now be clear though, that the habit cannot be any part of that character, and that we must try to understand how an active condition can arise as a consequence of a passive one, and why that active condition can only be attained if the passive one has come first. So far we have arranged three notions in a series, like rungs of a ladder: at the top are actives states, such as knowledge, the moral virtues, and the combination of virtues that makes up a character; the middle rung, the mere dispositions, we have mentioned only in passing to claim that they are too shallow and changeable to capture the meaning of virtue; the bottom rung is the place of the habits, and includes biting your nails, twisting your hair, saying “like” between every two words, and all such passive and mindless conditions. What we need to notice now is that there is yet another rung of the ladder below the habits.

We all start out life governed by desires and impulses. Unlike the habits, which are passive but lasting conditions, desires and impulses are passive and momentary, but they are very strong. Listen to a child who can’t live without some object of appetite or greed, or who makes you think you are a murderer if you try to leave her alone in a dark room. How can such powerful influences be overcome? To expect a child to let go of the desire or fear that grips her may seem as hopeless as Aristotle’s example of training a stone to fall upward, were it not for the fact that we all know that we have somehow, for the most part, broken the power of these tyrannical feelings. We don’t expel them altogether, but we do get the upper hand; an adult who has temper tantrums like those of a two-year old has to live in an institution, and not in the adult world. But the impulses and desires don’t weaken; it is rather the case that we get stronger.

Aristotle doesn’t go into much detail about how this happens, except to say that we get the virtues by working at them: in the give-and-take with other people, some become just, others unjust; by acting in the face of frightening things and being habituated to be fearful or confident, some become brave and others cowardly; and some become moderate and gentle, others spoiled and bad-tempered, by turning around from one thing and toward another in the midst of desires and passions. (1103 b, 1422) He sums this up by saying that when we are at-work in a certain way, an active state results. This innocent sentence seems to me to be one of the lynch-pins that hold together the Ethics, the spot that marks the transition from the language of habit to the language appropriate to character. If you read the sentence in Greek, and have some experience of Aristotle’s other writings, you will see how loaded it is, since it says that a hexis depends upon an energeia. The latter word, that can be translated as being-at-work, cannot mean mere behavior, however repetitive and constant it may be. It is this idea of being-at-work, which is central to all of Aristotle’s thinking, that makes intelligible the transition out of childhood and into the moral stature that comes with character and virtue. (See Aristotle on Motion and its Place in Nature for as discussion energeia.)

The moral life can be confused with the habits approved by some society and imposed on its young. We at St. John’s College still stand up at the beginning and end of Friday-night lectures because Stringfellow Barr — one of the founders of the current curriculum — always stood when anyone entered or left a room. What he considered good breeding is for us mere habit; that becomes obvious when some student who stood up at the beginning of a lecture occasionally gets bored and leaves in the middle of it. In such a case the politeness was just for show, and the rudeness is the truth. Why isn’t all habituation of the young of this sort? When a parent makes a child repeatedly refrain from some desired thing, or remain in some frightening situation, the child is beginning to act as a moderate or brave person would act, but what is really going on within the child? I used to think that it must be the parent’s approval that was becoming stronger than the child’s own impulse, but I was persuaded by others in a study group that this alone would be of no lasting value, and would contribute nothing to the formation of an active state of character. What seems more likely is that parental training is needed only for its negative effect, as a way of neutralizing the irrational force of impulses and desires.

We all arrive on the scene already habituated, in the habit, that is, of yielding to impulses and desires, of instantly slackening the tension of pain or fear or unfulfilled desire in any way open to us, and all this has become automatic in us before thinking and choosing are available to us at all. This is a description of what is called “human nature,” though in fact it precedes our access to our true natural state, and blocks that access. This is why Aristotle says that “the virtues come about in us neither by nature nor apart from nature” (1103a, 24-5). What we call “human nature,” and some philosophers call the “state of nature,” is both natural and unnatural; it is the passive part of our natures, passively reinforced by habit. Virtue has the aspect of a second nature, because it cannot develop first, nor by a continuous process out of our first condition. But it is only in the moral virtues that we possess our primary nature, that in which all our capacities can have their full development. The sign of what is natural, for Aristotle, is pleasure, but we have to know how to read the signs. Things pleasant by nature have no opposite pain and no excess, because they set us free to act simply as what we are (1154b, 15-21), and it is in this sense that Aristotle calls the life of virtue pleasant in its own right, in itself (1099a, 6-7, 16-17). A mere habit of acting contrary to our inclinations cannot be a virtue, by the infallible sign that we don’t like it.

Our first or childish nature is never eradicated, though, and this is why Aristotle says that our nature is not simple, but also has in it something different that makes our happiness assailable from within, and makes us love change even when it is for the worse. (1154b, 21-32) But our souls are brought nearest to harmony and into the most durable pleasures only by the moral virtues. And the road to these virtues is nothing fancy, but is simply what all parents begin to do who withhold some desired thing from a child, or prevent it from running away from every irrational source of fear. They make the child act, without virtue, as though it had virtue. It is what Hamlet describes to his mother, during a time that is out of joint, when a son must try to train his parent (III, Ìv,181-9):

Assume a virtue if you have it not.
That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat
Of habits evil, is angel yet in this,
That to the use of actions fair and good
He likewise gives a frock or livery,
That aptly is put on. Refrain tonight,
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence; the next more easy;
For use almost can change the stamp of nature…

Hamlet is talking to a middle-aged woman about lust, but the pattern applies just as well to five-year-olds and candy. We are in a position to see that it is not the stamp of nature that needs to be changed but the earliest stamp of habit. We can drop Hamlet’s “almost” and rid his last quoted line of all paradox by seeing that the reason we need habit is to change the stamp of habit. A habit of yielding to impulse can be counteracted by an equal and opposite habit. This second habit is no virtue, but only a mindless inhibition, an automatic repressing of all impulses. Nor do the two opposite habits together produce virtue, but rather a state of neutrality. Something must step into the role previously played by habit, and Aristotle’s use of the word energeia suggests that this happens on its own, with no need for anything new to be imposed. Habituation thus does not stifle nature, but rather lets nature make its appearance. The description from Book VII of the Physics of the way children begin to learn applies equally well to the way human character begins to be formed: we settle down, out of the turmoil of childishness, into what we are by nature.

We noticed earlier that habituation is not the end but the beginning of the progress toward virtue. The order of states of the soul given by Aristotle went from habit to being-at-work to the hexis or active state that can give the soul moral stature. If the human soul had no being-at-work, no inherent and indelible activity, there could be no such moral stature, but only customs. But early on, when first trying to give content to the idea of happiness, Aristotle asks if it would make sense to think that a carpenter or shoemaker has work to do, but a human being as such is inert. His reply, of course, is that nature has given us work to do, in default of which we are necessarily unhappy, and that work is to put into action the power of reason. (1097b, 24-1098a, 4) Note please that he does not say that everyone must be a philosopher, nor even that human life is constituted by the activity of reason, but that our work is to bring the power of logos forward into action. Later, Aristotle makes explicit that the irrational impulses are no less human than reasoning is. (1111 b, 1-2) His point is that, as human beings, our desires need not be mindless and random, but can be transformed by thinking into choices, that is desires informed by deliberation. (1113a, 11) The characteristic human way of being-at-work is the threefold activity of seeing an end, thinking about means to it, and choosing an action. Responsible human action depends upon the combining of all the powers of the soul: perception, imagination, reasoning, and desiring. These are all things that are at work in us all the time. Good parental training does not produce them, or mold them, or alter them, but sets them free to be effective in action. This is the way in which, according to Aristotle, despite the contributions of parents, society, and nature, we are the co-authors of the active states of our own souls (1114b, 23-4).

Source: www.iep.utm.edu

 

The Medusa Glance cover

Η συνεχής αναζήτηση του δύστροπου εαυτού μας

 

Το Βλέμμα της Μεδούσας αποτελεί ένα σύγχρονο τρίπτυχο, μια πλούσια και βαθειά εμπεριστατωμένη αφήγηση, ευαίσθητη κι ανταποκρινόμενη σε όλες τις έμφυτες και λεπτομερείς αποχρώσεις της πραγματικότητας που αποπνέουν εναγκαλισμό και σύνθεση όλου του φάσματος της ζωής. Σαν βασικό κίνητρο, ο ποιητής επικαλείται τη Μέδουσα, θυληκό τέρας με δηλητηριώδη φίδια στο κεφάλι της. Κι αυτός ο πέπλος φόβου μας προσελκύει να βυθιστούμε στον ποιητικό κόσμο του Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη. Το επίγραμμα που ακολουθεί μας παρουσιάζει το τόλμημα του ποιητή που έχει σκοπό να αναλύσει λεπτομερώς την έσω αρχιτεκτονική του δυναμισμού της εμπειρίας με την κάθε νέα μορφή αφήγησης και με την συνεχή επαναδιαπραγμάτευση της ταυτότητάς μας.  Ο αναγνώστης παρασύρεται απ’ τα πολύχρωμα ρήματα σ’ ένα ταξίδι που τον οδηγεί στη διάσταση του λεπτεπίλεπτου και σε ατελεύτητους πολυσχιδείς κυματισμούς της υποσεληνιακής συνείδησης. Τα ποιήματα του πρώτου μέρους αποτελούν μετουσίωση μέσω της οποίας καθενός η ύπαρξη αναγυρίζεται από μέσα προς τα έξω και μεταλλάσεται σε μια αλληλουχία αντιπολεμικών ποιημάτων που αναφέρονται στις πολιτικές εξελίξεις των Ηνωμένων Πολιτειών και σε διεθνή προβλήματα. Ο ποιητής ολοκάθαρα καταδικάζει τον πολιτικό διχασμό την ολοφάνερη ανικανότητα των πολιτικών να πάρουν αποφάσεις, την συνεχή πάχυνση του σώματος και της ψυχής των περισσοτέρων ανθρώπων που έχουν πια χάσει κάθε κίνητρο αντίστασης κάτω απ’την επιρροή των μαζικών μέσων επικοινωνίας, τη χρήση ακλοολικών ποτών που παραλύει την πλειονότητα του πληθυσμού. Η ποίηση του Μανόλη είναι έγκυρη, πειστική και έγκαιρη προτροπή μια συνεχής νουθεσία που προσπαθεί ν’ αποκαλύψει τις κρυμμένες και μυστηριώδεις δυναμικές της συνείδησης και την υποκείμενη μεταφορική αρχιτεκτονική της ζωής μας σε ένα νέο ερμηνευτικό πλαίσιο της ποιητικής αλήθειας. Η ροή των λέξεων υποκινείται απ’ το ακούραστο κριτικό βλάμμα του ποιητή, την καυστική του ειρωνία και τον σαρκασμό.  Ένα απ’ τα άξια επαίνου χαρακτηριστικά της ποίησης του είναι η αναμφισβήτη άποψη που αντιπροσωπεύει την αδιάκοπη ταλάντωση μεταξύ ταύτησης και ετερότητας. Ο ποιητής ασχολείται γενικά με την πραγματικότητα και ειδικώτερα με την διυποκειμενική    μορφή της. Η διαφάνεια και η ευθύτητα είναι διάχυτες στην ποίηση του Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη

και το αμετάβλητο του ορίζοντα αποτελεί μιαν έντονη παρουσία στην εμπειρία και στην βουλητική δραστηριότητα του ποιητή που τονίζονται σαν συστατικά στιγμιαίας ύπαρξης. Η εμπειρία του να είναι κάποιος ενεργό μέλος των καθημερνών συμβάντων κι ακόμα περισσότερο όταν κάποιος ντύνεται το μανδύα του αυστηρού κριτή που πεθυμά να διαπλάσει

τον κόσμο δεν εμπνέουν μόνο σιγουριά αλλά ξεξυπνούν και το συναίσθημα της ευθύνης καθώς σταδιακά γινόμαστε μέλη της ποιητικής οικουμένης του ποιητή που αποδέχεται την διαφορετική σύσταση του άλλου, τους φόβους και τις ελπίδες μας και πώς αντιλαμβανόμαστε

την ανθρώπινη ύπόσταση. Κι αυτό μπορεί να στρώσει το δρόμο για τη διαλογική μας εναλλαγή με τον συνάνθρωπο που θα είναι βασικό στοιχείο κι φήγηση άξονας του εγώκοσμου που ερμηνεύει και συνεχώς αναλύει συμβάντα του εξωτερικού κόσμου, κακουχίες, πείνα, πολέμους, βία, την κατάσταση ζωής των αδύναμων λαϊκών στρωμάτων που βλέπουμε καθημερνά μέσω των μαζικών μέσων επικοινωνίας. Η συνεχής αναφορά σε γεγονότα τρόμου, πόνου, λύπης και αγωνίας που υποφέρει μεγάλος αριθμός του πληθυσμού, η αληθινή ανησυχία κι έγνοια του ποιητή είναι ολοφάνερες. Κάθε ποίημα αποτελεί ένα ευθύ απολογισμό για το τί συμβαίνει κι ακόμα περισσότερο μια χάντρα στο κομπολόϊ που περιγράφει το μαρασμό, την καταπίεση, τη μηδένιση των πολλών προς όφελος των λίγων που τους εκμεταλεύονται. Βόμβες, τηλεκατευθυνόμενα βλήματα, εκρήξεις,Πτώματα, το παιγνίδι των μεγάλων πολυενθικών εταιρειών που ευφημιστικά ονομάζονται, ανάδοχες αμυντικές εταιρείες στο εξωφρενικό κόμσο ου σήμερα ζούμε, είναι εικόνες που παρελαύνουν στα ποιήματα του πρώτου μέρους και υπογραμίζουν την αγωνία του ποιητή να βρει διέξοδο απ’ τη σύγχρονη παγίδα του διεθνισμού και καταναλωτισμού. Όσο ενδοστρεφή και βαθειά ριζωμένα στη γνώση είναι αυτά τα ποιήματα αποτελούν την πραγματικόηττα που ο ποιητής μέσω του λυρισμού προσπαθούν να βρουν καταφύγιο στην ανθρώπινη φύση και τις έμφυτες αξίες. Ένα συνοθύλευμα διαφόρων θεμάτων και εικόνων ακουλουθεί στο δεύτερο μέρος του βιβλίου Το Βλέμμα της Μεδούσας. Αναμνήσεις, ερωτισμός, φιλοσοφία, αφηρημένη τέχνη, αλληλουχία σκέψεων που τριγυρίζει έναν υπαρξιακό διαλογισμό, η απόσταξη ζωής περιγράφονται με λογοτεχνική ουσία: ο ποιητικός κόσμος του Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη υπάρχει σε συνεχή εξέλιξη και διαπλάσεται κι αποκτά σώμα οστά και σκοπό. Αυτή η συνεχήςεξελικτική υπόσταση του βιβλίου αποτελεί και το νόημά του κι είναι το βασικό στοιχείο της διανοητικής και καλλιτεχνικής του Οικουμένης. Διαβάζουμε τα ποιήματα αυτά και κάνουμε μια προσπάθεια να τα ερμηνεύσουμε μέσω διαλόγου και ειλικρίνιας. Προσπαθούμε να τα εννοήσουμε έχοντας στο νου ότι το λυρικό εγώ αναγεννιέται σε μια σειρά σκέψεων, αντυπώσεων και συναισθημάτων, στην πολύμορφη δημιουργική του ποιητή που χαμηλώνει τα σύνορα του αυτο-εγκλωβισμένου κόσμου στο έδαφος. Το αντικείμενο κάθε ποιήματος αποτελείται από ένα σύνολο αποχρώσεων κληρονομικής εμπειρίας του άλλου καθώς ο φακός μέσω του οποίου εστιαζόμαστε στην εικόνα θρύβει τις υπάρχουσες και καθεστημένες δοξασίες δυναμώνοντας το σκοπό των ετερογενών και πολύχρωμων εννοιών που αναμοχλεύονται από την καθημερνή εμπειρία του ανθρώπου.    Σαν επέκταση των εμπειριών του ποιητή κάποια ετερότητα αναβλύζει απ’ τα ποιήματα καθώς ο ποιητής προσφέρει μέσω του πολύπλευρου κόσμου των εικόνων του πολλαπλές ερμηνείες παράλληλων ζωών, ταυτόχρονα συμβάντα, και συγχονισμένες υπερθέσεις εισχωρώντας στο πνευματικό πεδίο του άλλου και με την προώθηση του αναγνώστη στο χώρο του άλλου. Έτσι ο ποιητής αφού αντιμετωπίσει το εγώ του τοποθετώντας το στη θέση του άλλου σαν κοινωνική και πολιτική αναγκαιότητα μας προσκαλεί να μεταλλάξουμε το εγώ μας όπως τολμά κι ο ίδιος. Η αναμφισβήτη ειλικρίνεια και διαφάνεια του ποιητή εκδηλώνονται σε σειρά συσχετιζομένων ποιημάτων με αλληλοσυνδεόμενες εικόνες σαν να πηγάζουν από μια στέρευτη πηγή αισθήσεων κι εντυπώσεων στενά συσχετισμένων με την πραγματικότητα της καθημερινής ζωής. Οι ολιγόστροφοι επιγραμματικοί διάλογοι του τρίτου μέρους του βιβλίου παρουσιάζουν μια δυναμική και λεπτομερή ρεαλιστική αναφορά στη δυναμική που διενεγείται ανάμεσα σ’ ένα ζευγάρι ηλικιωμένων. Η δυαδικότητα του διαλόγου βασίζεται σε δύο διαφορετικές μορφές έκφρασης του ηλικιωμένου ζευγαριού καθώς προσπαθούν να αυτοπροσδιοριστούν. Οι ιδιαίτερα ξεχωριστές απόψεις συζούν δίχως να εναλλάσουν κάποιο στοιχείο που να τους ενώνει και να το χρησιμοποιούν με την πρόθεση να επηρρεάσουν ο ένας τον άλλο. Τα ποιήματα του τρίτου μέρους αναπτύσονται μέσω ενός φακού που εκθέτει τις διαφορές και τα κατεστημένα που έχουν ορθωθεί ανάμεσα στα δύο πρόσωπα που ζουν σε διαφορετικά επίπεδα και ιδιωτικούς χώρους. Στην περίπτωση αυτή το να μοιράζεται κάποιος τη ζωή του με κάποιο άλλο πρόσωπο είναι απλό θέμα συνύπαρξης και όχι απαραιτήτως σύνδεσης ή έστω και επικοινωνίας που στην περίπτωσή μας εξελίσεται σε διαφορετικά επίπεδα, διαφορετικούς ψυχολογικούς κόσμους και συνεπώς ζουν μαζί και χωριστά. Οι χαρακτήρες των ποιημάτων του τρίτου μέρους διενεργούν εκ του εντός διφορετικές εξωτερικές επιδράσεις κι η εναλλαγή τους δεν παρουσιάζει κανένα σημείο επαφής καθώς ντύνονται κι οι δύο την φευτοαμφίεση του έτερου ενός που δεν είναι παρά ένας ρόλος τδια του οποίου δρουν και υπάρχουν. Η έλληψη ανταπόδοσης παρουσιάζεται σε όλους σχεδόν τους διαλόγους, τις μισοκομμένες φράσεις, τα υπονοούμενα, που αποδεικνύουν ολοκάθαρατην απομόνωση στην οποία τα δύο πρόσωπα ζουν: ο τρόπος έκφρασής τους και οι σκέψειςπου ποτέ δεν αναπτύσονται σαν μέσο αληθινής επικοινωνίας υπογραμμίζουν τις διαφορές που υψώνονται ανάμεσά τους και που εμποδίζουν την απλή λογική εναλλαγή μεταξύ των δύο χαρακτήρων. Και όταν πια διαπιστώνουν τις διαφορές τους και το χάσμα που υπάρχει ανάμεσά τους αποδέχονται τη συμβίωση όπως είναι καταλαβαίνοντας ότι κανένα σημείο επαφής δεν υφίσταται πια. Η επικοινωνία μεταξύ άνδρα και γυναίκας έχει μηδενιστεί κι η ζωή τους συνυπάρχει μόνο στη φαντασία και των δύο.  Στο τρίτο μέρος του βιβλίου ο Μανώλης Αλυγιζάκης αποκαλύπτει πτυχές και επαρσιώσεις της σχέσης δίχως βερμπαλισμούς και με αναμφίβολη ευθύτητα που προβάλει σαν αποτέλεσμα τη συμβατηκότητα των περισσοτέρων σχέσεων ηλικιωμένων ζευγαριών που συνυπάρχουν, συζούν, συμβιώνουν αλλά ζουν σε ξεχωριστούς κόσμους, μια φρικτή αλλά αληθινή πλευρά της σύγχρονης ζωής. Το Βλέμμα της Μεδούσας είναι ένα ολοζώνταντο, επισκοπόν, κυνικό,ιδιαίτερα κριτικό, σύγχρονο πορτρέτο που μας παρουσιάζει με τον ευθύτατο τρόπο του ποιητή ένα τεράστιο πανόραμα φιλτραρισμένο από την εξεταστική και υποκειμενική ματιά του Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη και μας προτρέπει να την αποδεχτούμε και να την αγκαλιάσουμε σαν κάτι δεδομένο κι αποδεχόμενο. Η ζωντάνια των εικόνων κι ο πλούτος εμπεριστατωμένων στιγμών και η καθηλωτική αφήγηση του ποιητή μας παίρνουν σ’ ένα ταξίδι του εσωτερικού του κόσμου που διαφαίνεται σαν διαπλοκή και την ίδια στιγμή σαν αξέχαστη κι ευχάριστη εμπειρία. Η ποίηση του Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη επιβεβαιώνει την αξία της πρωτογενής ύπαρξης αλλά ότι είναι επίσης πράξη και περιπλοκή. Το Βλέμμα της Μεδούσας υφίσταται σαν ένα ερμηνευτικό σημείο του κυκλικού ανωφερικού μονοπατιού που ο ανθρωπος αναμένεται ν’ ακολουθήσει προς την ψυχολογική και φιλοσοφική του εξέλιξη, έννοια που συμβαζίζει με τηγνησιότητα του ποιητή που ερμηνεύει τις διαφορές και τις αντιξοότητες της σύγχρονης ζωής.Οι αντιθέσεις του εγώ με τον άλλο και οι συνθήκες κάτω από τις οποίες μια ταύτιση ίσως ανακαλυφθεί είναι στοιχεία που ο ποιητής, ερευνά, αναφέρει, και μέσω της ευθύτητάς του προσπαθεί να εδραιώσει με την ελπίδα πως κάποια στιγμή οι ιδεολογικές και πολιτικές διαφορές ίσως γεφυρωθούν κι ίσως η αναμφίβολη διαφάνειά του χρησιμεύσουν σαν ορόσημα που θα οδηγήσουν στο καλύτερο αύριο. Karoly Sandor Pallai, PhD, researcher, translator, poet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ceaseless wanderings of a recalcitrant self

 

 

The Medusa Glance is a present-day triptych, a rich and profoundly nuanced contemporary narrative, sensitive to all the immanent and minute shades of reality, aspiring to embrace and incorporate the whole spectrum of lived experience. As a key motive, the author invokes Medusa, the female monster with venomous snakes on hear head. Stricken with fear, we are nonetheless tempted to be immersed in the poetic universe of Manolis. The epigraph characterizes the bold enterprise of the author aimed at the explicitation of the inner architecture and dynamics of experience, at the renewal of narrative practices and at the constant (re)negotiation of identity. The reader is swept away by a polychromatic tempest of verbs and embarks on a journey guiding him to the dimension of the minute and infinitely multifarious undulations of sublunary consciousness.

 

The poems of the first part mark an act of transubstantiation in which one’s existence is turned inside out, transcending itself and identity is filtered through alterity in a succession of anti-war poems dealing with the politics and elections of the USA and with international affairs. The author passes severe judgement on political disunity, the striking incapacity for decision-making, on our body and soul growing fat, lazy and losing all sense of criticism, on our stupefied, inebriated and paralyzed citizenship. The poetry of Manolis is a valid, cogent and timely exhortation, a perennial admonition endeavoring to disclose the hidden and mysterious dynamics of consciousness and the underlying metaphorical architecture of our lives in a new hermeneutical framework of poetic truth. The flow of words is set into motion by the inexorable criticism of the author, by his scathing irony and withering sarcasm. One of the most laudable characteristics of this poetry is the intermediate view that it represents in the incessant oscillation between identity and alterity.

 

The poet is concerned with reality in general and with intersubjective reality in particular. Openness and straightforwardness are encoded in the essence of this poetry and the immutable horizon of vigorous presence, experience and volitional activity is accentuated as a constitutive moment of existence. The experience of being an active participant of the events unfolding around us, moreover, of being a highly intensive critical presence shaping the world is not only reassuring but it also awakes our feeling of responsibility as we gradually become part of this poetic universe which serves to accommodate our impressions of the radical alterity of the other, our fears and hopes and our understanding of human identity. This can pave the way for our dialogical activity which is essential in the construction of our own narrative of the ego-world axis and of our interpretative matrix in which we constantly try to place and analyze the events of the external world, the famines and wars, the violence, the defenselessness and the privation that we see on a daily basis.

 

The succession of the trenchant images of suffering, pain, sorrow and agony is deeply personal, the genuine concern of the poet is moving: each poem is a state of affairs and what is more, a bead on a rosary told for the victims of violence, exclusion and discrimination. Bombs, missiles, explosions, corpses, great power politics, weapons and defense contractors in a mad world… The poems of the first chapter constitute the etching of the poet’s foregoing investigation into the horrors of modern-day existence. However introversive and rooted in a profound knowledge of the self these texts are, they are far from the common self-absorption of many poetic trends: the interference of the lyrical self is inconsiderable and it is instrumental in giving occasion to an inspection into the realm of human nature and inherent values.

 

A fusion of themes and horizons characterize the poems of the second part of the book. Reminiscence, eroticism, abstraction, philosophy, a chain of thoughts revolving around existential meditation and the distillation of life condensed in literary essence: the poetic world of Manolis is continually in the process of taking shape and being formed. This ceaseless becoming is the very essence of his intellectual and artistic universe. When it comes to these texts, to engage in hermeneutics is to engage in a reflection of openness and dialogue. The fragmented narrative serves the enlargement of the horizon of our experiences by an immersion in the inexhaustibly divergent possibilities of alternative subjectivity. Striving for understanding, the lyrical I is incarnated in a sequence of thoughts, impressions and sensations, in a multiplicity of self-representations, levelling the boundaries of the self-enclosed subject to the ground. The poetic subject appears as the focal point of the diverse shades and nuances of the inherent alterity of all experience, as the convergent lens splitting and shattering fixed categories, activating and mobilizing our most heterogeneous and multi-colored concepts and experiences of life and existence. As an extension of the experience of alterity to textual creation, the poet offers us his many-worlds interpretations of parallel lives, simultaneous events and synchronous superpositions by entering into the spirit and ideas of others and by projecting us into their existence. Thereby, the poet, after addressing the self-other, identity-alterity relationship as a socio-political concern, invites us to transcend the egological dimensions of the self. The poetic efficacy attributing autonomy and postulating self-sufficiency as the normative structure of the subject is replaced by the necessity of the other’s perspective and the engagement in an open dialectic of experience. The relentless candor and openness of the poet manifest themselves in the interlocking patterns of an apparently autofictitious chain of images, of an almost limitless inventory of sensations and impressions closely related to the realms of lived experience of everyday existence and to the phenomenological and ontological readings of feelings, life events and thoughts.

 

The short, epigrammatic dialogues of the third section of the book offer a sternly detailed and coldly realistic portrayal of the dynamics of estrangement and disaffection of the relationship of an elderly couple. The duplicity of the narrative is constituted by the disparate strategies of self-representation: the distinct perspectives coexist without being engaged in interaction, without interpenetrating and influencing each other. The poetic text operates in this part of the book as a divergent lens displaying, exhibiting the major discrepancies and splits in these two radically dissimilar inner structures of experience and existence. Sharing life, in this case, doesn’t mean a dialectical, bilateral relationship: on the contrary, it is only a setting for the plain scheme of communication divested of its essence, of the essential alterity and openness of shared experience. These series of pseudo-encounters deprive the subjects of any vertical dimension, compelling them to float in indeterminacy and to abandon all hope of a communion in which the encounter could transform the innermost realms of their existence. The lack of reciprocity manifests itself in the bifurcate, juxtaposed phrases and paragraphs, in the tessellated fugue-structure of non-alignment, phase-displacement and avoidance. The thoughts disengage and come apart as two people fade into the delusive intimacy of isolation: their means to express and articulate the nuances of their personality and inner self are incompatible, the schemata of their behavior reflect the distance between their authentic selves. By asserting their identities in their monologic and monolithic fragments of the universe, they tacitly accept the increasing alienation and the correlative tensions. The communion of wife and husband has lost even its seeming and fictitious feeling of togetherness, often disguised in an illusory narrative secrecy. In the final sequence of poems, Manolis reveals the cleavages and ruptures of a relationship in all honesty, with unrelenting directness. In fact, the apparent tranquillity and respite dissimulate an alarming defensiveness and a regressive inner fear which make it impossible to recognize and accept the growing gap and anxiety and the reinforcement of incongruence and decomposition of the self.

 

This lively, alert, highly critical, cynical, daring and often intrepid portrait of our age, this unyielding reckoning offers us a large-scale panorama filtered through the subjectivity of the poet which is the strategy of Manolis to embrace, appropriate and refigure reality. The vividness of his imagery and the richness of the moments of lived experience and enacted narratives make our journey into the inextricable intertwining of his inner world not only memorable but pleasurable as well. The poetry of Manolis confirms the postulation not only of the primacy of being, but of being as action and involvement. The Medusa Glance is a hermeneutical sign-post

tracing an ascending curve of psychological and philosophical analysis, congruent with the genuineness of the poet, which gives an account of his interpretations of our confrontations with the incomprehensibility of life, of the unfathomable fullness of experience, of the often controversial and impenetrable complexities and mysteries of ipseity and alterity, of conceptual and carnal intersubjectivity and of the mental space opened up for a critique of our deeply rooted ideological constructions and insincerities by the implacable openness and directness of this poetry.

 

Károly Sándor Pallai, PhD, researcher, translator, poet

 

Ἐπιτύμβιον

Πέθανες- κι ἔγινες καὶ σύ: ὁ καλός,
Ὁ λαμπρὸς ἄνθρωπος, ὁ οἰκογενειάρχης, ὁ πατριώτης.
Τριάντα ἕξη στέφανα σὲ συνοδέψανε, τρεῖς λόγοι ἀντιπροέδρων,
Ἑφτὰ ψηφίσματα γιὰ τὶς ὑπέροχες ὑπηρεσίες ποὺ προσέφερες.

Ἄ, ρὲ Λαυρέντη, ἐγὼ ποὺ μόνο τὄξερα τί κάθαρμα ἤσουν,
Τί κάλπικος παρᾶς, μιὰ ὁλόκληρη ζωὴ μέσα στὸ ψέμα
Κοιμοῦ ἐν εἰρήνῃ, δὲν θὰ ῾ρθῶ τὴν ἡσυχία σου νὰ ταράξω.

(Ἐγώ, μιὰ ὁλόκληρη ζωὴ μὲς στὴ σιωπὴ θὰ τὴν ἐξαγοράσω
Πολὺ ἀκριβὰ κι ὄχι μὲ τίμημα τὸ θλιβερό σου τὸ σαρκίο.)

Κοιμοῦ ἐν εἰρήνῃ. Ὡς ἤσουν πάντα στὴ ζωή: ὁ καλός,
Ὁ λαμπρὸς ἄνθρωπος, ὁ οἰκογενειάρχης, ὁ πατριώτης.

Δὲ θά ῾σαι ὁ πρῶτος οὔτε δὰ κι ὁ τελευταῖος

TOMBSTONE ENGRAVING

You also died and you became the special

good family man, the patriot

thirty six wreaths accompanied you

three funereal speeches by vice presidents

seven votes in favor of what you offered

 

ah, Lavrentis, only I knew what a bastard you were

what a sold out asshole, you lived a life time of lies

sleep in peace I won’t come to disturb your serenity

 

(I will exchange my whole life with priceless silence

and not with a reward your sorrowful corpse)

 

Sleep in peace as you were in life: the special

good family man, the patriot.

 

You’ll neither be the first nor the last one.

 

NEOHELLENIC POETRY-AN ANTHOLOGY, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Ekstasis Editions, autumn, 2017

ARC POETRY MAGAZINE FEATURE REVIEW

 

Harold Rhenisch

 

Love and War and Oranges

Philip Resnick. Footsteps of the Past. Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2015.

Nick Papaxanthos. Love Me Tender. Toronto: Mansfield Press, 2015.

Dimitris Lianinis. Hours of the Stars. Surrey, BC: Libros Libertad, 2015.

Tzoutzi Matzourani. Hear Me Out: Letters to My Ex-Lover. Surrey, BC: Libros Libertad, 2015

 

Classicism is the belief that adherence to past models recreates their successes. It’s why art students draw from the nude, formalists write sonnets, and Germany is structured on Goethe’s Faust. It’s also why Canadian poets write in a series of stances called, variously: self-actualization, emotional honesty, imagism, verse, activism, English and French, surrealism, glosas, villanelles, open fields, vers libre, academic deconstruction, and that juggling trick Leonard Cohen did with the oranges. Most commonly, classicism references the artistic works of ancient Greece—usually to foster humanist values. In this review I look at four Canadian poetry books that reference classical Greek modes.

 

Philip Resnick’s Footsteps of the Past is exquisite. Poems such as “West Coast Mythis-torema” and “Paris on a Sunday Afternoon” are tours de force of Greek metrics: mus­cular objects like Greek statues in marble: “limbs and flesh so dear / that words, you feel, are puffs of hollow air, / and images of love / Pygmalions carved in sandstone or in wax” (“Paris on a Sunday Afternoon”). Most of the other poems are satires. My work­ing model: back in the day, such jibes were sung by drunkards caught up in moonlit orgies in the Aegean hills; in civic life, satirical dramas stripped off the masks of power in dances of violence and forgiveness. Resnick’s are elegiac: “faces in a sullied looking glass / that must be digitalized / before they turn to dust” (“Cuarentena”). Often, they sound like pulpit work: “what is familiar becomes with time / a parasite in the intes­tinal flora” (“The Crown in Canada”). Resnick’s honoured dead aren’t the heroic dead of Homer and Alice Oswald, who fight in eternal battle on the scorched plains of the Middle East. They’re ghoulish. In Resnick’s reckoning, classical Greece was a wellspring of Western ideals; its citizens lived in common society, united with land and its spirits. In his Canada, this spirit lingers on in decaying fragments. The millions of people of his Vancouver, whose intellectual traditions honour Daphne and Apollo, have washed up on the shores of Raven’s sea. They have jettisoned classical unity in favour of the ability to live in tall glass rectangles. This is not courage. Reflecting the city’s ennui, many of Resnick’s poems fizzle away, as if a god has been filled with power but then, when fate hangs in the balance, slips down to the pub for a beer and to watch the Canucks lose the Stanley Cup. Classicism here grits its teeth to reveal a broad gap between realities and professed ideals, in beautiful but sad models of civic, occasional and funereal verse.

 

Nick Papaxanthos’ Love Me Tender draws on the oracular tradition of the priestesses of Apollo, who breathed sulfuric vapours to predict the future—in riddles that would ex­cite any neurolinguistic programmer today. His Love Me Tender is like a bomb of dada lobbed into an opposing trench in the Somme: “avocados fudge / blimps to raisins / the inning, lungs / in the fatso and / braids toothpaste.” It’s a bit blunt. Bombs are. Dada is. The sections “The Next Arrangement of Molecules” and “Chairlift to Hell,” though, are classic surrealist games. They just go by at warp speed, that’s all—like fanning a deck of tarot cards instead of laying them down one by one. Here’s one, to give you a taste: “the yo-yo panorama looks out gently / then returns, tinged with blood” (“At the Peak of Mt. Murder”). Fun, or what!? It’s language interrogating itself using a random­ness generator. No, wait: it’s René Char redux, differing only from the original in that Char learned his poetics in the 1940s Resistance, which certainly beat the heroism of running into machine gun fire or its contemporary equivalent, the randomness gener­ator. In Papaxanthos, the resistance continues—just faster than human sight, that’s all, and through the global universalism of surreal imagery. What was originally a group of exiles aggrandizing their verbal powerlessness during WWI by replacing art with nonsense (as the war had replaced civilization with destruction) is now Papaxanthos aggrandizing the hurlers of Molotov cocktails (rather than hurling them.) Have a look at one of his glorifications: “The Meadow of Dents // Light slams the flowers on its way out.” It’s clever stuff. Like the Dadaists, its topic is its own cleverness. It is display and a desire to disappear all at once. That can’t be healthy. For the Dadaists, a gesture like that was violent. Here the violence is turned inward. This is dangerous territory. Another example might help: “In the Atmosphere // of headlight beams and floral bedsheets, / voices trade hellos / from faces turning shyly away.” (Both examples are from “The Next Arrangement of Molecules.”) The text here has replaced “self” identity. Now the text is lobbing the IEDs. The self? The poor thing is embarrassed. Maybe that’s how a poet has to survive in Resnick’s anti-culture: a strong, victorious book is obscured to survive within the culture it tries to replace. That’s the necessary work of a clown. It’s sad that such a ruse is needed. These surreal sequences would be stronger if not vacuum-packed into a container of a size and shape better suited to hold the ashes of Bliss Carman. Such a nod to the norms of Canadian book editing dulls the revolution within these devices. It aestheticizes them. It makes them “safe,” just another turn within a potpourri of verbal gymnastics, compressed to fit. They aren’t the aesthetic objects the book shape—and the Canadian sensibility behind it—makes them to be, and they sure aren’t safe. They deserve their own launch vehicles.

 

Dimitris Liantinis’ Hours of the Stars draws on Greek culture from within. Where Papaxanthos manipulates Greek oracular tradition through secular surrealism, Liantinis uses similarly bizarre imagery within an unbroken connection with the Greek panthe­on. Where Papaxanthos’s Canadian postmodernism employs psychology and industrial identity severed from the earth to view its roots as flotsam left over after a tsunami, recombined into steam punk bangles such as “A sink washes the air’s hands / A detour around a candle darts” (“The Vaccinated Dawn”), Liantinis’ imagery is the oracle: “mem­oirs will be written only / on the edge of the sword / that cracks the cheekbones of the night like walnuts” (“Hercules”). Liantinis lacks Resnick’s and Papaxanthos’s sense of loss, tragedy, romance and bathos. His references to the gods fill the space their emp­tiness fills. In “Aquarius,” for example, an un-named god unearths “the viscera of the desert,” but then miracle—not a burning bush but “Suddenly water drops shone / on the weight of its tiredness and / filled the sun with passengers.” It is a warning against see­ing Greece as the root of the Western tradition, which shows the material faces of God and uses art to create archetype. After all, it’s also the source of Eastern tradition, which apprehends God as archetype and uses art to arrive at material presence. This is a book to set with Seferis, Cavafy and Ritsos. It’s the real deal.

 

Of course, classical tradition isn’t just a high testosterone phalanx of monks and sui­cide bombers battling to see who has the better bronze sword and who the best desert in which to watch the mind writing on silence. It also contains Sappho, writing of her lesbian lover so passionately that no love poem has surpassed hers in 2600 years. In Hear Me Out: Letters to My Ex-Lover, Tzoutzi Matzourani makes direct nods to her: “The agony, the heart ache, the pain in the guts, the longing the yearning each felt for the other, the match, the writhing, the complete surrender” (“The Road to Hell”). She discards many parts of classical tradition. She keeps precision: “What you loved of me, you killed” (“What You Loved”). She sidesteps Plato’s annoying questioning by directly addressing her beloved. She keeps elegy: “Because simply you can’t grasp onto anyone’s hand you can’t grasp onto anything” (“The Lost 1%”)—like Heraclitus and the river you can’t step into twice: “My dry lips still had the taste of watermelon we ate at lunch time, and now, evening already, my glance was glued high up in the sky” (“A Slice of Moon With the Scent of Watermelon Fragrance”). Classical metrics are eschewed for simple stanzas built around exquisite semantic rhythms and the ebbs and flows of prose. These are the sea’s tides, so present they need never be mentioned. Don’t be fooled, though: these letters gradually reveal themselves as notes to: Mantzourani’s ex-lovers, the things she has loved, and poetry’s passions and devotions. There is no oracle. This is a real woman, exploring the day-to-day triumphs and pains of love in all of its particulars, consciously aware that she is replacing an entire classical tradition of men jabbering about politics, sociology, religion, architecture, literature, philosophy, etc., with an alter­nate lens: love, and its devotions and attentions. Out of the four books here, all steeped in Greece, it’s hers that extends humanism, and with fused passion, wit and intellect. If an entire century were built on her model, we would do well.

 

        Hours of the Stars and Hear Me Out are poetic triumphs.

 

 

 

 

 

cover

ΑΠΟΧΑΙΡΕΤΙΣΜΟΣ

 

Τον συναντούσα συνήθως στη σκάλα, καμιά φορά ερχόταν στην

κάμαρά μου και μάζευε τις σκόρπιες καρφίτσες απ’ το πάτωμα, “θα

τις πάω στη Μαρία” έλεγε και σα να ντρεπόταν που η Μαρία είχε

πεθάνει — ύστερα όλα άλλαξαν, το σπίτι σκοτείνιασε, μόλις μπο-

ρούσες να ξεχωρίσεις τ’ αλλοτινά σημάδια, στο δρόμο έφεγγε ένα

κηροπήγιο σα να `ταν κάτι, λέει, κάτω απ’ το χώμα που δεν έπρε-

πε να το ξεχάσουμε, “κι εσύ γιατί σ’ αρέσει να σέρνεσαι σαν το

σκουλήκι” μου λέει, “Κύριε, θέλω να προλάβω” του λέω κι όταν

ακούστηκε το τραίνο που σφύριζε για δεύτερη φορά, «εδώ τελειώ-

νουν τα όνειρα» είπε κι έβρεχε, έβρεχε ασταμάτητα πάνω σ’ όλον

το μάταιο κόσμο.

 

 

 

GOODBYE

 

I would usually meet him by the stairs at times he would come to

my room to pick the thrown pins from the floor, “I’ll give them

to Maria” he would say as if embarrassed that Maria had died —

then everything changed, the house got dark, you could hardly

discern the old wounds; in the street a candle was lit as if

they said, there was something under the soil we shouldn’t forget

“and you, why you like to crawl like a worm?” He said to me “Sir

I try to make it on time” I said to him and when the train was heard

whistling for the second time, “here end the dreams” he said and

it rained an unrelenting rain over the whole futile world.

 

 

 

TASOS LIVADITIS-SELECTED POEMS, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, Vancouver, 2014

www.libroslibertad.com

www.manolisaligizakis.com

merging dimensions cover

 

THE SECOND ADVENT OF ZEUS REVIEW

By João da Penha

 

 

POET, OF FACT.

 

 

Singing, everyone sings, but singers only about ten or twelve.

 

The boutade, they say, is by Frank Sinatra, whose remarkable vocal skills – it seems to me – have not been contested to this day.

To paraphrase the song of the great American singer, it can be said that there are not so many poets like this in the world – here and elsewhere, yesterday and today. I suspect that there will never be many poets, or at least many great poets. At least, I am convinced, not as many as the growing number of edited collections suggest, by marketing strategy arts, just under hyperbolic titles.

Many poetic exercise exercises it, or imagine exercising it. But to make great poetry is grace granted to a minority; to a caste of elect, therefore.

Schiller, by the way, has already warned that it is not enough to create good verses so that its author considers himself a poet. Now, to do verses, almost everyone, at some point in life, has already done. To make POETRY, however, is the road traveled by the minority referred to above. Only she, this chosen caste, has the map of the trail. Whoever holds it, who knows how to read it, interprets its coordinates, leads the others, that is, all of us, who have formed this majority, as creators, of the poetic territory, only by traveling, if sensitive to the Muses, as travelers. For the senseless, the tour of this territory will be nothing more than mere tourism.

Eric Ponty has the map of the trail. He is an authentic poet. Maturity is everything, the supreme bard in the “King Lear” told us. Poet, owner of his craft, poet who reached the full domain of poetic making.

His poetic virtuosity, Ponty has already shown and demonstrated in the magnificent “Retirement Boy Goes to the Circus in Brodowski” (Musa Publishing House, São Paulo, 2003.) In this book with its translation, our poet only makes it reaffirmed. For example when translating this stanza of Manolis’ poem Apollo, which reminds us of Paul Valéry’s Socratic prose in Eupalinos Lame et la Danse Dialogue De L arbre:

 

APOLLO

 

And I grew under Apollo’s sun

 

minutes of expressiveness

alone in darkness and

before I opened my eyes

I was accompanied

by the law of failure

born blind and

accused of heresy

a revolution in its making

even before I could utter

a groan or a begging cry

 

I gathered all my strength

to pick a date with death

hours before I appeared

in my mother’s arms

newborn festivity

error permitted

two legs just to walk

a heart as if

to feel emotion and

other human traces

of grandeur

 

 

 

APOLO

 

E eu cresci sob o sol de Apolo

 

Minutos de expressividade

Sozinho nas trevas e

Antes de abrir os meus olhos

Eu estava acompanhado

Pela lei da bobagem

 

Nasceu cega e

Acusada de heresia

Uma conflagração na sua fazendo

Mesmo antes que eu pudesse articular

Um suspiro ou um grito a mendigar

 

Eu ajuntei toda minha força

A seleção de uma data com a morte

Horas antes eu semelhava

Nos meus braços da minha mãe

Festa de um recém-nascido

Erro admitido

As duas pernas apenas a pé

Um coração como se

Sentisse à emoção e

Outros traços humanos

Da grandeza

 

This defense can be translated as the recognition that poets inhabit a province where logic does not bow down to the principles that govern the empirical world (nothing is more real than nothing, pre-Socratic Democritus preached). Poets know that. That’s why your particular logic. Particular, but not arbitrary. Particular because only they have the “kingdom key”.

Croce and Vossler, the memory comes to me now, they polemicized around the phrase: “The round table is square”. For the Italian thinker, the phrase would sum up to a total absence of meaning, illogical, while the German critic saw it as true, aesthetically and grammatically valid, caring little that logically impossible. Vossler, like so many others, before and after him, realized that the poet is the one who creates realities. Poets are creators of worlds. Therefore, in the poems translated by Eric Ponty, a musician, as well as a poet, he follows the Wagnerian advice that the poet does nothing but stimulate the understanding, leading the reader to make new combinations on the subject already known by means of sensory perception.

If, as Ponty tells us in one of the translated poems, “In My Mother’s Arms /newborn festivity / error permitted / two legs just to walk” it is equally true that we should listen to what poets have to say (few decipher the world better than poets, neighbors to philosophers). Eric Ponty, at the height of his creative force, has much to tell us through these translations as he did with Manolis-a Canadian Greek poet who’s credit is The Second Advent of Zeus a masterful piece.

 

“…for his sustained reflection, for a lyrical voice, and an invitation to see life not as a barren subject, but as a complex dynamic that has its own extraordinary design and imago of truth” as Ilya Tourtidis tells us, it is urgent that we listen to Manolis’ voice through the translation of the poet-translator Ponty, one of the most talented of his time.

 

 

 

João da Penha, a journalist and retired professor, collaborated in cultural publications such as Encounters with Brazilian Civilization, Cult and Tempo Brasileiro. Author, among other books, of What Is Existentialism (Brasiliense, 2011, 17. ed.) And Philosophical Periods (Ática 2000, 4. ed.), Translated for magazines and newspapers poems by Russians Sierguêi Iessiênin and Alieksandr Blok, and short stories By José María Argüedas, Júlio Cortázar and Gabriel García Márquez, published in The first short stories of ten masters of Latin American narrative (Paz e Terra, 1978). How to read Wittgenstein. São Paulo: Paulus, 2013.

 

 

cover

ΥΠΟΜΝΗΣΗ

Το δωμάτιο συνοικιακό, με λιγοστά έπιπλα, σαν περικοπή απ’
το Ευαγγέλιο — έτσι τέλειωσαν όλα γρήγορα κι η Ιωάννα κλαί-
γοντας πίσω απ’ το σταθμό, εξάλλου ήταν ένα μυστικό υπέροχο που
το ξεχνούσα μόλις πήγαινα να το πω, άνοιξα τότε τη θήκη του
βιολιού — και μόνο, καμιά φορά, με πιάνει το παράπονο και φοράω
τη γραβάτα μου μ’ έναν τέτοιο τρόπο, που να καταλάβουν, επιτέλους,
ότι είμαι από καιρό κρεμασμένος.
REMINDER

The room was in the suburbs, with a few pieces of furniture
like a Gospel quotation — so everything finished quickly and
Joanna cried and run back to the station; on the other hand it was
a secret that I’d forget it as I tried to mention it; then I opened the
violin case — and only, at sometimes when I grieve, I put on my
tie in such a way that they at least understand
I have been hanging for a long time.
~Τάσου Λειβαδίτη-Εκλεγμένα Ποιήματα/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη
~Tasos Livaditis-Selected Poems/Translated by Manolis Aligizakis
http://www.libroslibertad.ca
http://www.authormanolis.wordpress.com

Ritsos_front large

ΑΝΑΙΡΕΣΗ

Ώστε, λοιπόν, δεν είχαν όλα χαθεί. Το παράθυρο
έβλεπε ακόμη ένα κομμάτι πολιτεία, ένα κομμάτι
διαθέσιμο σχεδόν ουρανό. Ο μαραγκός, ο χτίστης,
μετέωροι στη σκαλωσιά, έρχονται πάλι πλησιέστερα.
Τα καρφιά, τα σανίδια έχουν, λοιπόν, κι άλλη χρήση,
και τ’ όνειρο πάλι κι ο τοίχος κ’ η ελάχιστη ανάσταση
κ’ η περίλυπη δόξα, χρήσιμη πάλι, θυμίζοντας
κείνες τις οδοντογλυφίδες στο τσεπάκι του γιλέκου
που, τόσα χρόνια πριν, είχαμε πάρει κρυφά
απ’ το φτηνό εστιατόριο μια χειμωνιάτικη νύχτα.
REFUTATION

So it seems it wasn’t all lost. The window
still looked out at a part of the city, an almost available
part of the sky. The carpenter, the builder,
dangling off the scaffold, they come closer again.
Then the nails, the planks, have another use
and the dream again, the wall and the faint resurrection
and the sorrowful glory, useful again, reminding us
those toothpicks in the small vest pocket
that, so many years ago, we had secretly taken
from the cheap restaurant one winter night.
~Γιάννη Ρίτσου-ποιήματα/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη
~Yannis Ritsos-Poems/translated by Manolis Aligizakis
http://www.authormanolis.wordpress.com
http://www.ekstasiseditions.com
http://www.libroslibertad.ca

ritsos front cover

ΤΡΙΠΤΥΧΟ

1. Ώσπου βράδιασε

Κρατούσε στο χέρι του το χέρι της. Δε μιλούσε.
Άκουγε πέρα, ίσως και μέσα του,
τον άφθονο σφυγμό της θάλασσας.
Η θάλασσα, τα πεύκα, οι λόφοι, είταν το χέρι της.
Άν δεν της τόλεγε, πως θα κρατούσε το χέρι της;

Σώπασαν, ώσπου βράδιασε. Κάτω απ’ τα δέντρα,
είταν μονάχα ένα άγαλμα με τα δυο χέρια του κομμένα.

2. Μια γυναίκα

Η νύχτα αυτή, απροσπέλαστη, κανέναν δε φιλάει—
μόνη μέσα στο φόβο της μη δε βρεθεί κανείς να τη φιλήσει.

Με πέντε αστέρια-δάχτυλα κρύβει μια τούφα άσπρα μαλλιά
κ’ είναι έτσι ωραία σαν άρνηση του πιο ωραίου εαυτού της.

3. Τί φταίμε;

Κάτω απ’ τη γλώσσα σου είναι τα λεπτά κλωνάκια του άνηθου,
οι σπόροι των σταφυλιών και οι ίνες των ροδάκινων.
Μέσα στη σκιά που ρίχνουν τα ματόκλαδά σου
είναι μια γη ζεστή. Μπορώ να ξαπλώσω
και να ξεκουραστώ ανερώτητα, είπε.

Τί θέλει λοιπόν αυτό το “πιο πέρα”;
Καα συ τί φταίς, ανυποψίαστη, να μένεις με τα φύλλα;
Ωραία κι απλή μες στο χρυσό σχήμα της ζέστας σου;
Κ’ εγώ τί φταίω να προχωρώ μέσα στη νύχτα
δέσμιος στην ελευθερία μου, είπε, τιμωρώντας ο τιμωρημένος;

TRIPTYCH

1. Until Evening Came

Ιn his hand he held her hand. He wasn’t talking.
He was listening far away and perhaps inside him
to the ample pulse of the sea.
The sea, the pine trees, the hills were her hand.
If he didn’t say this to her, how could he hold her hand?

They kept quiet until evening came. Under the trees
was only a statue with his two severed hands.

2. A Woman

This night is unapproachable, doesn’t kiss anybody –
alone in her fear as though no one may come to kiss it.

With five stars – fingers she hides a strand of white hair
and thus she’s like a negation of her most beautiful self.

3. What is our fault?

Under your tongue hide the thin little dill stems,
the grape seeds and the peach strings.
In the shadow created by your eyelashes
rests a warm earth. I can lie down
and rest without any questions – he said.

Then what is the meaning of this ‘farther away’?
And what is your fault, unsuspecting, to stay with the leaves?
Beautiful and simple in the golden beauty of your warmth?
And what is my fault that I walk in the night
captive of my freedom, he said, I, the punishing, the punished?
~Γιάννη Ρίτσου-ποιήματα/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη
~Yannis Ritsos-Poems/translated by Manolis Aligizakis
http://www.authormanolis.wordpress.com
http://www.ekstasiseditions.com
http://www.libroslibertad.ca