Archive for the ‘Κωνσταντίνος Καβάφης’ Category

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SENSUALITY IN MANOLIS’ POETRY COMPARED TO CAVAFY AND YANNIS RITSOS

 

As history teaches us, the contrast between life and art has made it easy to think of Cavafy in the abstract, as an artist whose work exists free from tradition and attachment to a specific moment in time. This trend has been prompted by the two elements of his poetry for which he is most famous: his surprisingly contemporary theme (one of his themes, at least), and his attractive and direct style.

Certainly there have always been many readers who appreciate the so-called historical poems, situated in magical places of the Mediterranean during times that have been long dead and acrimonious with sociable irony and a certain tired stoicism. (“Ithaca gave you the beautiful journey, / without her you would not have put in the passage. / But now she has nothing to give you,” he writes in what may be the most famous evocation of ancient Greek culture: the journey is always more important than the fatefully disappointing destination.) This can be seen in the poem:

Thermopylae

Honor to all of those who in their lives

have settled on, and guard, a Thermopylae.

Never stirring from their obligations;

just and equitable in all of their affairs,

but full of pity, nonetheless, and of compassion;

generous whenever they’re rich, and again

when they’re poor, generous in small things,

and helping out, again, as much as they are able;

always speaking nothing but the truth,

yet without any hatred for those who lie.

And more honor still is due to them

when they foresee (and many do foresee)

that Ephialtes will make his appearance in the end,

and that the Medes will eventually break through

 

But it is probably fair to say that the popular reputation of Cavafy rests almost entirely on the remarkably preexisting way in which his other “sensual” poems, often not considered as this poet’s gift, deal with the ever-fascinating and pertinent themes of erotic desire, realization and loss.

The way, too, when memory preserves what desire so often cannot sustain. That desire and longing only makes it appear more contemporary, closer to our own times. Perhaps this is the case with Manolis’ poem:

Lamppost

 

After leaving our marks

on the sole lamppost

we parted

she to the west

I to the east

with a promise

to meet again

by this lamppost

and trace our marks

though we never thought of the Sirens

the Cyclops and the angry Poseidon

though we never thought of the pricey

ferryman

 

No one but Cavafy, who studied history not only eagerly but with a studious respect and meticulous attention to detail, would have recognized the dangers of abstracting people from their historical contexts; and nowhere is this abstraction more dangerous than in the case of Cavafy himself.

 

THE CITY

 

You said: “I’ll go to another land, to another sea;
I’ll find another city better than this one.
Every effort I make is ill-fated, doomed;
and my heart —like a dead thing—lies buried.
How long will my mind continue to wither like this?
Everywhere I turn my eyes, wherever they happen to fall
I see the black ruins of my life, here
where I’ve squandered, wasted and ruined so many years.”
New lands you will not find, you will not find other seas.
The city will follow you. You will return to the same streets.
You will age in the same neighborhoods; and in these
same houses you will turn gray. You will always
arrive in the same city. Don’t even hope to escape it,
there is no ship for you, no road out of town.
As you have wasted your life here, in this small corner
you’ve wasted it in the whole world.

 

Surely his work is as good as great poetry can be and at the same time timeless in the way we like to think that great literature can be alchemizing details of the poet’s life, times and obsessions into something relevant to a large audience over the years and even centuries.

But the tendency to see Cavafy as one of us, as one in our own time, speaking to us with a voice that is transparent and admittedly ours about things whose meaning is self-evident, threatens to take away a specific detail one that, if we give it back to him, makes him look larger than life and more a poet of the future, as it was once described, rather than the time he lived in. This detail also pertains to the biography of Manolis who refers to mythical passages of his home-country and unfolds scenes of sensuality, abandonment and loss.

Cavafy’s style, to begin with, is far less prosaic, much richer although not musical, and rooted deeply in the nineteenth century in which he lived for more than half of its life. Some readers will be surprised to learn that many of Cavafy’s poems, even when he was almost forty, were cast as sonnets or other prepared forms of verse.

Manolis was born in Kolibari a small village west of Chania on the Greek island of Crete in 1947. At an early age his family took him first to Thessaloniki and then to Athens where he was educated, earning a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from the Panteion University of Athens.

The subject in some of Cavafy which tend to be overlooked by readers as difficult are the poems deliberately placed in the dark, geographical and temporal margins of the Greek past: poems which seem not to have much to do with today’s concerns and are often passed in favor of works with more contemporary appeal.

Perhaps this is the case with Manolis who draws from the same Greek sources as Cavafy does making historical references to Greece, the cradle where his soul was born, when he creates the Greek myths interacted in his contemporary poetry. Even far from his motherland Greece where he resides now he still retains in his poetic memory, images and themes he channels through verve in this book and others.

 

Can Manolis channel the beauty as easily as he describes in his verse? “An ancient time leader / as an anointed and pious / a musical instrument of candor flowing free / ready to speak with words that relieve pain and free the soul?” Yes its main tool is its firsthand experience of the power of Eros. His psychological makeup attracts and conveys authenticity and happiness based on his worship and being adored by sensual and provocative female figures exposing him in an ecstatic transcendence through his bodies of lust and his deep love and dedicated understanding. It is obvious that he finds his purpose in falling in love passionately for his beloved.

He does not hide that before he emerged he wanted to become “a festival / movement song of a bird / a vesper / a simple sigh / that will heal the lips of his beloved.” If he feels impotent in the face of inconceivable and unlimited Destiny, he declares that a woman’s embrace beckons him and he likes to give in to his passion: “dark and vague circle / forever indeterminable / and this, the command / and this, the Obedience / This, the orgasm / and this, the Eros / and this is you.” He feels being favored by Eros he diffuses his burning passion with light that fills his erotic verses. As a gallant defender of lust and sensuality and the true emotions of love, he delivers the joy and joy to the soul.

 

Both idealism and pragmatism, messianism, but also the tradition in the languor of the senses, the subjects of love dedicated to ephemeral satisfaction and erotic drunkenness make up the changes of its vast poetic content. Having the maturity of an accomplished poet and the ability to create evocative images in a personal way, the poet introduces us to what constitutes the most brilliant expression of his most intimate thoughts and beliefs in front of the world of his time and age.

The way, too, where memory preserves what desire so often can’t sustain. That desire and longing were for other men only makes it appear more contemporary, closer in our own times as we see in this opening poem of Golden Kiss, which poem may seem obscene and prosaic created by a minor poet, but when creating by a poet as Manolis locks up the erotic aura of a Moravia.

 

like a bird stilled by camera lens

her scandalous vulva visits his mind

from days of that August

on the scorched island

in low tone siesta

in muffled moaning

lest the mirror would crack from tension

 

 

In the 1880s and 1890s, Constantine Cavafy was a young man with modest literary ambitions, writing verses and contributing articles, critiques and essays, mostly in Greek but in English (A language in which he was perfectly at home as a result of spending a few of his adolescence years in England), on a number of idiosyncratic subjects, Alexandria and Athenian newspapers. This similarity in biographies binds Cavafy with Manolis who lives in Vancouver and writes poems in Greek and English referring to both countries.

 

Yannis Ritsos was born in Monemvasia, Greece, on May 1, 1909, in a family of landowners. He did his early schooling and finished high school in Gythion, Monemvasia and after graduating in 1925, he moved to Athens where he began working on typing and copying legal documents. A year later, he returned to his home town where he spent his time writing and painting, another form of art that he devoted himself which along with his writing he kept for the rest of his life, perhaps the painting has given him elements of his sensual poems:

 

WOMEN

Our women are distant, their sheets smell of goodnight.

They put bread on the table as a token of themselves.

It’s then that we finally see we were at fault; we jump up saying,

‘Look, you’ve done too much, take it easy, I’ll light the lamp.

’She turns away with the striking of the match,

walking towards the kitchen, her face in shadow,

her back bent under the weight of so many dead –

those you both loved, those she loved, those

you alone loved . . . yes . . . and your death also

 

Listen: the bare boards creaking where she goes.

Listen: the dishes weeping in the dishrack.

Listen: the train taking soldiers to the front.

 

 

Sometimes the poems are invested with the fractured logic of the dream with images of dream events or they’re placed in a landscape of dreams that grows, as one reads more, more and more recognizable, less strange, always attractive. At the same time, their locations and quotations are redemptive of a completely recognizable Greece: the balconies, the geraniums, the statuary, women in their black attires and, in a lasting way, the sea. His touch is light, but its effect is profound. Much depends on the image that causes the narrative movement. Some poems are so small, so distilled, that the fragments of history given to us – the kids’ psychodramas – have an irresistible power. “The less I get the bigger it gets,” said Alberto Giacometti and the same powerful reticence is a feature in Ritsos’ shorter poems.

 

The content of Yannis Ritsos also deserves renewed attention – both the specific themes of the individual poems, which in fact keep the historical and the erotic in a single focus.

Eroticism is one of the appearances of man’s inner life. In this one deludes himself because one is seeking his fixed object of desire. But this object of desire responds to the internal desire. The choice of an object always depends on the individual’s personal tastes: even if it falls on the woman most would have selected, what comes into play is often an unspeakable aspect, not an objective characteristic of this woman unless she has touched the inner being of man she creates the force to choose her.

The notion of disorientation (similar, perhaps, to the effect of a mild virus), when heightened emotion puts us at odds with the world, when the aromas become sour, when a view of the garden becomes desolate, when household objects shed their purpose, is perfectly evoked in these ten lines. There is an immediate recognition of a precarious ontological state tied to a story until, a moment later, we realize that we can see that street, see that window, see through that door:

 

 

ALMOST

 

It was just luck: I open the door, the two women

side by side on the sofa

 

in his black handkerchief,

mother and daughter, perhaps,

 

staying immobile, unpronounceable, a mouthful of bread

on the table, a cat sleeping on the couch.

 

Looking away and the sun at the top of the waves, cicadas

the swallows attractions in blue. They look back.

 

I almost had it, I almost had it in one of them.

Then Mother got up and closed the door.

 

This poem by Yannis Ritsos refers us to another poem by Manolis but more sensual and right:

 

Nothing to hold onto

but ourselves in lust

and the cenotaph with

names engraved in marble

yet in this near futile void

a sudden speck of light

gleams on Suzanne’s breast

as a lightning flash like

when her eyes demanded

a deeper meaning to this: are we

to search for it during this dark night

with our two bodies as the only absolution?

 

The sensuality of the Mediterranean world may be in the Greek soul of the poets to a greater or lesser degree, as we have seen over the years and centuries, referring to the idea that the Greek gods though dead are alive in the souls of the Greeks: Eros and Dionysus are alive from the bygone days of yesteryears to today and even more so in the case of Manolis who lives in Vancouver but has not forgotten his Cretan roots, and he writes in both Greek and English and shows with his simple poem Golden Kiss the sensual and erotic connection between his poetry and that of Cavafy and Yannis Ritsos.

 

~Eric Ponty, poet, translator, Sao Paolo, Brazil, 2016

cavafy copy

VOICES
Ideal and beloved voices
of the dead or those who
for us are lost like the dead.
At times they talk in our dreams;
at times our minds hear them when in thought.
And with their sound, for a moment, echoes
return from the first poetry of our lives—
like distant music, at night, that slowly fades away.

ΦΩΝΕΣ

Ιδανικές φωνές κι αγαπημένες
εκείνων που πεθάναν, η εκείνων που είναι
για μας χαμένοι σαν τους πεθαμένους
Κάποτε μες τα όνειρα μας ομιλούνε
κάποτε μες τη σκέψη τες ακούει το μυαλό
Και με τον ήχο των για μια στιγμή επιστρέφουν
ήχοι από την πρώτη ποίηση της ζωής μας —
σα μουσική, την νύχτα, μακρινή, που σβύνει.

CANDLES

The days of the future stand in front of us
like a line of lit candles—
golden, warm, and lively little candles.
The days of the past remain behind,
a sorrowful line of burned out candles;
the closest ones are still smoking,
cold candles, melted, and drooping.
I don’t want to look at them; their shape saddens me,
and it saddens me to remember their previous light.
I look ahead at my lit candles.
I don’t want to look back and see in horror
how fast the dark line lengthens,
how quickly the burned out candles multiply.

ΚΕΡΙΑ

Του μέλλοντος η μέρες στέκοντ’ εμπροστά μας
σα μια σειρά κεράκια αναμένα—
χρυσά, ζεστά, και ζωηρά κεράκια.
Η περασμένες μέρες πίσω μένουν,
μια θλιβερή γραμμή κεριών σβυσμένων
τα πιο κοντά βγάζουν κανπνόν ακόμη,
κρύα κεριά, λυωμένα, και κυρτά
Δεν θέλω να τα βλέπω με λυπεί η μορφή των
και με λυπεί το πρώτο φως των να θυμούμαι.
Εμπρός κυττάζω τ’ αναμένα μου κεριά
Δεν θέλω να γυρίσω να μην διω και φρίξω
τί γρήγορα που η σκοτεινή γραμμή μακραίνει
τί γρήγορα που τα σβυστά κεριά πληθαίνουν.

CAVAFY’S BIOGRAPHY

‘I am from Constantinople by descent, but I was born in Alexandria— at a house on Seriph Street; I left at a young age and spent many of years of my childhood in England. I visited that country later on as an adult although for a short period of time. I also lived in France. During my adolescence I lived in Constantinople for about two years. I haven’t visited Greece for long time. My last employment was as a clerk at a Government office under the Ministry of Public works of Egypt. I speak English, French, and some Italian.’
This auto-biographical note of Constantine P. Cavafy or Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis, (Κωνσταντίνος Πέτρου Καβάφης), published in 1924 in the celebratory issue of the magazine New Art, may be supplemented with the following.
Cavafy was born on April 17/29th of 1863. Son of a family of merchants, he had eight older siblings all of whom died before him. Two of his brothers were painters, and another wrote poems in English and French; a cousin of his translated Shakespeare.
His father died in 1870 leaving the family in difficult financial position. Cavafy’s mother moved the family to England, where the two eldest sons took over their father’s business. However, their inexperience caused the ruin of the family fortunes and they returned to Alexandria. But the few years that Cavafy spent in England shaped his poetic sensibility and he became so comfortable with the second language that he wrote his first poems in English.
After the brief time he spent in England he moved with his mother to Constantinople where he lived with his grandfather; his stay here was brief and he arrived in Alexandria in 1879. Although they lived in great poverty and discomfort, he wrote his first poems during this period. After working for short periods for the Alexandrian Newspaper and the Egyptian Stock Exchange, at the age of twenty-nine Cavafy took up an appointment as a special clerk in the Irrigation Service of the Ministry of public works, a position he held for the next thirty years. Much of his young ambition during those years was devoted to writing poems and prose essays.
Constantine Cavafy had a very small circle of people around him. He lived with his mother until her death in 1899, and after that with his unmarried brothers. For much of his adult life he lived alone. Influential relationships included his twenty-year acquaintance with E.M. Forster.
Cavafy had one long lasting friendship with Alexander Singopoulos, whom Cavafy designated as his heir and literary executor when he was sixty years old, ten years before his death.
Cavafy remained virtually unknown in Greece until late in his career. He was introduced to the mainland Greek literary circles through a favorable review written by the well known Greek writer Xenopoulos in 1903; however, he got little recognition since his writing style was different from the mainstream Greek poetry of the time. Some twenty years later, after the war of 1919-1923 between Greece and Turkey, a new generation of poets such as Karyotakis would find some inspiration in Cavafy’s work.
It is generally accepted that Cavafy was a homosexual and themes of gay relationships appear in a number of his poems; indeed there is hardly any reference to a woman or a kore, as in Elytis’ works where the kore is a predominant sensual image. In Cavafy, we find numerous sensual references to young men or ephebes, all in their early twenties.
Since his death his reputation has grown and now he is considered one of the finest Greek poets; his work has been published again and again and is taught in schools in Greece, and in colleges and universities throughout the world. A film about his life was produced in Greece in 1996.
He is considered one of the most influential poets of modern Greece and along with Palamas, Kalvos, Seferis, Elytis, Egonopoulos and Ritsos he was instrumental in the revival and recognition of Greek poetry both in Greece and abroad.
His first published poem was printed for the magazine Hesperos in 1886. After that he kept publishing his poems in various magazines in Alexandria and Athens, as well as in some private editions of his friends. He also published articles and philosophical diatribes in newspapers and magazines of Leipsia, Constantinople, Alexandria and Athens.
In 1926, the military government of Pangalos, after a submission by G. Haritakis, awarded him the “Silver Medal of Phoenix”. The same year the periodical Alexandrian Art was launched under his guidance.
After his death a collection of 154 poems was published under the care of his executor Alexander Singopoulos and his then wife Rica, and with the collaboration of the painter Takis Kalmouchos. Since 1948 “Ikaros” has been the publisher of Cavafy’s works in Greece.
The first official presentation of Cavafy in Greece was in the Hellinika Grammata by Gregory Xenopoulos in 1903. At the same time the English writer E. M. Forster was the first one to introduce the poet to international readers.
Cavafy’s poems have been translated into just about all the European languages, and the majority of his more mature poetic creations have been translated and published from 1951 to 1980: twice in English, twice in French, once in German, and once in Italian.
He died of cancer of the larynx on April 29, 1933, on his seventieth birthday, in Alexandria.
In Canada, the most valuable work on Cavafy has been created by Greek Canadian Poet Manolis by translating and publishing a selection of poems in Constantine P. Cavafy – Poems.

http://www.libroslibertad.ca

Biography of translator Manolis Aligizakis

Manolis

BIOGRAPHY

Manolis (Emmanuel Aligizakis) is a Greek-Canadian poet and author. He is the most prolific writer-poet of the Greek diaspora. At the age of eleven he transcribed the nearly 500 year old romantic poem Erotokritos, now released in a limited edition of 100 numbered copies and made available at 5,000 dollars Canadian: the most expensive book of its kind to this day. He was recently appointed an honorary instructor and fellow of the International Arts Academy, and awarded a Master’s for the Arts in Literature. He is recognized for his ability to convey images and thoughts in a rich and evocative way that tugs at something deep within the reader. Born in the village of Kolibari on the island of Crete in 1947, he moved with his family at a young age to Thessaloniki and then to Athens, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Sciences from the Panteion University of Athens. After graduation, he served in the armed forces for two years and emigrated to Vancouver in 1973, where he worked as an iron worker, train labourer, taxi driver, and stock broker, and studied English Literature at Simon Fraser University. He has written three novels and numerous collections of poetry, which are steadily being released as published works. His articles, poems and short stories in both Greek and English have appeared in various magazines and newspapers in Canada, United States, Sweden, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Australia, Jordan, Serbia and Greece. His poetry has been translated into Spanish, Romanian, Swedish, German, Hungarian, Arabic, Turkish, Serbian, Russian languages and has been published in book form or in magazines in various countries. He now lives in White Rock, where he spends his time writing, gardening, traveling, and heading Libros Libertad, an unorthodox and independent publishing company which he founded in 2006 with the mission of publishing literary books. His translation book “George Seferis-Collected Poems” was shortlisted for the Greek National Literary Awards the highest literary recognition of Greece.

AWARDS
~Distinguished Poet and Writer Award, City of Richmond, BC, 2014
~1st Poetry Prize, International Arts Academy for this translation of “Yannis Ritsos- Selected Poems”, 2014
~Winner of the Dr. Asha Bhargava Memorial Award, Writers International Network Canada, 2014
~“George Seferis-Collected Poems” translated by Manolis, shortlisted for the Greek National Literary Awards, translation category.
~1st Poetry Prize, International Arts Academy, for his translation of “George Seferis-Collected Poems”, 2013
~Master of the Arts in Literature, International Arts Academy, 2013
~1st Prize for poetry, 7th Volos poetry Competition, 2012
~Honorary instructor and fellow, International Arts Academy, 2012
~2nd Prize for short story, Interartia festival, 2012
~2nd Prize for Poetry, Interartia Festival, 2012
~2nd Prize for poetry, Interartia Festival, 2011
~3rd Prize for short stories, Interartia Festival, 2011

BOOKS by MANOLIS

Chthonian Bodies, paintings by Ken Kirkby and poems by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2015
Images of Absence, poetry, Ekstasis Editions, 2015
Autumn Leaves, poetry, Ekstasis Editions, 2014
Übermensch/Υπεράνθρωπος, poetry, Ekstasis Editions, 2013
Mythography, paintings and poems, Libros Libertad, 2012
Nostos and Algos, poetry, Ekstasis Editions, 2012
Vortex, poetry, Libros Libertad, 2011
The Circle, novel, Libros Libertad, 2011
Vernal Equinox, poetry, Ekstasis Editions, 2011
Opera Bufa, poetry, Libros Libertad, 2010
Vespers, paintings and poems, Libros Libertad, 2010
Triptych, poetry, Ekstasis Editions, 2010
Nuances, poetry, Ekstasis Editions, 2009
Rendition, poetry, Libros Libertad, 2009
Impulses, poetry, Libros Libertad, 2009
Troglodytes, poetry, Libros Libertad, 2008
Petros Spathis, novel, Libros Libertad, 2008
El Greco, poetry, Libros Libertad, 2007
Path of Thorns, poetry, Libros Libertad, 2006
Footprints in Sandstone, poetry, Authorhouse, Bloomington, Indiana, 2006
The Orphans, poetry, Authorhouse, Bloomington, Indiana, 2005
TRANSLATIONS by MANOLIS
Hours of the Stars, poetry by Dimitris Liantinis, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2015

Hear Me Out, short stories, by Tzoutzi Mantzourani, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2015

Caressing Myths, poetry by Dina Georgantopoulos, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros libertad, 2015

Idolaters, a novel by Joanna Frangia, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2014

Tasos Livaditis-Selected Poems, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2014
Yannis Ritsos-Selected Poems, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Ekstasis Editions, 2013
Cloe and Alexandra-Selected Poems, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2013
George Seferis-Collected Poems, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2012
Yannis Ritsos-Poems, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2010
Constantine P. Cavafy – Poems, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2008

Cavafy-Selected Poems, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Ekstasis Editions, 2011

BOOKS in OTHER LANGUAGES
A Fogoly, (Hungarian), a novel by Manolis Aligizakis (English publication with the title “Petros Spathis”), translated into Hungarian by Karoly Csiby, AB-ART, Slovakia, 2015
Άσματα του Παραλόγου, (Greek), poetry, ENEKEN, Salonika, Greece, 2015
Εικόνες Απουσίας, (Greek) poetry, Sexpirikon, Salonika, Greece, 2015
Oszi Falevelek, (Hungarian), poetry by Manolis Aligizakis, translated into Hungarian by Karoly Csiby, Gyp, Hungary, 2015
Svest, (Serbian), poetry by Manolis Aligizakis, translated into Serbian by Jolanka Kovacs, Serbia, 2015
Eszmelet, (Hungarian), poetry by Manolis Aligizakis, translated into Hungarian by Karoly Csiby, AB-ART, Bratislava, Slovakia, 2014
Ιερόδουλες, (Greek), poetry, Sexpirikon, Salonika, Greece, 2014
Υπεράνθρωπος, (Greek), poetry, ENEKEN, Salonika, Greece, 2014
Übermensch (German), poetry by Manolis Aligizakis, translated into German by Eniko Thiele Csekei, WINDROSE, Austria, 2014
Nostos si Algos, (Romanian) poetry by Manolis Aligizakis, translated into Romanian by Lucia Gorea, DELLART, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2013
Τολμηρές Ανατάσεις, (Greek) poetry, GAVRIILIDIS EDITIONS, Athens, Greece, 2013
Φυλλορροές, (Greek) poetry, ENEKEN PUBLICATIONS, Salonika, Greece, 2013
Εαρινή Ισημερία, (Greek) poetry, ENEKEN PUBLICATIONS, Salonika, Greece, 2011
Στρατής Ρούκουνας, (Greek) novel, MAVRIDIS EDITIONS, Athens, Greece, 1981
LONGHAND BOOKS

Erotokritos, by Vitsentzos Kornaros, (rare book-collectible), transcribed by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2015