Archive for the ‘Greek Writers’ Category

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ΚΟΝΤΑ ΣΤΗ ΘΑΛΑΣΣΑ

 

Τον ενδιέφερε — έλεγε — η ψυχολογία των ψαριών, όταν

οι σκιές τους περνούν στο κατάστρωμα του βυθισμένου πλοίου

κι έξω στο λιμενοβραχίονα μικρά κορίτσια με ναύτες

ανάβουν μεγάλες φωτιές κι ύστερα κάθονται στις άγκυρες και κλαίνε.

 

 

 

BY THE SEA

 

He was interested – he said – in the psychology of fish, when

their shadows are displayed on the deck of a sunken ship

and on the pier young girls with sailors

start big fires and then sit on anchors and cry.

 

 

YANNIS RITSOS-SELECTED POEMS, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Ekstasis Editions, Victoria, BC, 2013

 

www.libroslibertad.com

www.manolisaligizakis.com

www.ekstasiseditions.com

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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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

It’s my pleasure to inform you that the International Academy Mihai Eminescou has invited me to their 4th Poetry Festival, in Craiova, Romania to be held in May. Needless to say I’m totally excited; and yes, I’ll attend and after it straight to my motherland!

Με ιδιαίτερη χαρά σας ενημερώνω ότι η Ακαδημία Μιχαήλ Εμινέσκου με έχει προσκαλέσει στο 4ο Φεστιβάλ Ποίησης που θα διεξαχθεί το Μάϊο στην Κραϊόβα της Ρουμανίας. Περιττό να πω ότι πετώ στα σύννεφα! Και, ναι, θα πάρω μέρος, κι αμέσως μετά μαζί σας εκεί στην πατρίδα!

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Ο ΜΕΤΕΩΡΟΣ

Με τον καιρό οι παραστάσεις λιγοστεύουν. Το ίδιο και τα έπιπλα.
Το υπέδαφος, κούφιο, υποχωρεί. Δεν κρατάει
το βάρος της πέτρας ή του βήματος. Ένας άνθρωπος
λίγο-λίγο αφαιρεί τα περιττά και τα αναγκαία
για να σταθεί τουλάχιστον στον αέρα. Βαδίζει
δίπλα στα σύρματα του τηλεγράφου. Κάποτε, τα βράδια,
εγγίζει ψηλά τα λαμπιόνια της λεωφόρου, δοκιμάζοντας
τις αντιδράσεις της αφής του. Ανάμεσα στα δόντια του
κρατάει το ψαλίδι της τελικής συσκότισης, δίχως
ποτέ να το χρησιμοποιεί. Πιθανόν να φοβάται
τη συστροφή των καλωδίων, κ’ ίσως πιότερο ακόμη
αυτόν που κάθεται κει κάτω, στην τελευταία καρέκλα,
στο πεζοδρόμιο του φωταγωγημένου ζαχαροπλαστείου
πίνοντας με μελετημένες, ήσυχες, αργές γουλιές
ένα κίτρινο υγρό απ’ το μεγάλο, αστραφτερό ποτήρι.

~Αθήνα, 18-3-71

 

THE UNDECIDED

With time performances become less and less. Same as the furniture.
The subfloor, hollow, gives way. It cannot hold up
the weight of a stone or a footstep. A man
slowly-slowly removes the excess so
he can at least hover in midair. He walks
next to the telegraph wires. Sometimes, in the evening,
he touches the street lights, up high, trying
to see the reaction of his touch. Between his teeth
he keeps the scissors of total blackout, without
ever using them. Perhaps he’s afraid
the twisting of the wires or even more so
the person sitting down there, on the last chair,
on the sidewalk of the well-lit patisserie
drinking with thoughtful, calm, slow gulps
a yellow drink from the large, shining glass.

~Athens, 18-3-71
http://www.authormanolis.wordpress.com
http://www.libroslibertad.ca
http://www.ekstasiseditions.ca

nostos and algos cover

ΟΡΚΟΣ

Στάθηκε στο παραπέτο του παλιού κάστρου.
Από κάτω μας η πεινασμένη άβυσσο.
Λίγο βαθύτερα η θάλασσα λαμποκοπούσε
κι ημερωμένα κύματα χαιδεύαν
το κίτρινο αμμουδερό ακρογιάλι.

Τότε σήκωσε το χέρι του οριζόντια
λες κι ορκιζόταν στον ήλιο
σαν να υποσχόταν να ξαναγυρίσει
μιαν άλλη φορά σαν χρειαστούμε
κάποιον που να σταθεί ενάντια
στην απληστία τών μερικών
που βολεμένοι και παχουλοί
στη χαώδη χόρταση κολυμπούν.

Μα το κάστρο τούτο που δεν ανεχόταν
ηγέτες με τις παρωπίδες, έτριξε κι ίσως
γι’ αυτό κι ο ήρωάς μας επέμενε να δείχνει
σαν άπατη άβυσο τη θάλασσα.

Κι αφού σιγοπερπάταγε
στην άκρη του τειχιού
κι αφού έκανε το σταυρό του
αφέθηκε στη λύτρωση του μηδενός.
OATH

He stood at the edge of the old castle’s parapet
below it the hungry abyss and
even lower the gleaming sea
ready to splash its first wave
onto the yellow soft sandy beach

when he raised his arm
as if taking an oath
as if promising to come back
at another time when we’d need
one to stand against
the greed and gluttony of the few
who comfortable and fat
dwelled in their satiation.
Yet the old castle that couldn’t tolerate
leaders with blinkers, it creaked
as our hero insisted pointing
the endless abyss of the sea

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

~NOSTOS AND ALGOS, Ekstasis Editions, Victoria BC, 2012

 

Hear Me Out_cover_Jun9.indd

http://www.spreaker.com/user/6314317/air-play-poetry-corner-hear-me-out

On the Kitchen Counter

Good morning my love,
The day is of course just starting for me, although passed three
in the afternoon, but you see, I dedicate all my night to think of
you as I go to the various bars with my friends.
Yesterday I mused that three months have already gone since we
separated, three months that I haven’t found refuge in that little
dip of your chest. There where I told you it was my secret cave,
where I felt secure.
I mused that lone moment of summer when we lied down on the
beach and the sun burnt us, I dripped a few drops of sea water to
quench the thirst I had for your love.
I get up at noon I return home almost at daybreak.
Empty as always since you left, the house welcomes me with the
radio being on since morning and the lights set on the timer.
Toast and Happy Hippo cheese are my evening meal along with
pills for the hangover.
And tears ready to run down my cheeks.
This will pass, no matter what, it’ll pass.
I remember one time when we returned home after a night
at the bouzoukia, we prepared an omelette and fried bread
because we were hungry.
Then after we ate we left the plates on the table and made love
on the kitchen counter. At daybreak, before we went to bed
hugging each other to go to sleep.
Unique moments! Our love was such, as long as it lasted.
Yet it left a deep scar behind, a scar that refuges to heal and like
a cancer eats me up from within.

Στον πάγκο της κουζίνας

Καλημέρα, αγάπη μου!
Η μέρα βέβαια αρχίζει για μένα τώρα, που είναι πια περασμένες τρεις το μεσημέρι, αλλά βλέπεις, το βράδυ μου το αφιερώνω όλο για να σκέφτομαι εσένα, ενώ τριγυρνάω με αδιάφορες παρέες στα μπαράκια.
Αναλογιζόμουν χτες πως πέρασαν κιόλας τέσσερις μήνες που δεν είμαστε μαζί, που έχω να χωθώ στη λακκουβίτσα του στέρνου σου.
Εκεί που σου ’λεγα πως είναι η μυστική σπηλιά μου, που όταν βρίσκομαι δεν φοβάμαι πια τίποτα και κανέναν.
Θυμήθηκα εκείνη τη μοναδική στιγμή του καλοκαιριού, που όπως ήμασταν ξαπλωμένοι στην παραλία και μας έψηνε ο ήλιος, σου ‘σταξα μέσα της νερό απ’ τη θάλασσα και μετά το ήπια από ’κει, για να ξεδιψάσω τον έρωτά μου για σένα.
Ξυπνάω το μεσημέρι, Γυρίζω σπίτι μου τα ξημερώματα…
Άδειο, όπως πάντα, από τότε που έφυγες, το σπίτι, με καλωσορίζει με το ραδιόφωνο, που παίζει απ’ το πρωί και τα φώτα που ανάβουν με χρονοδιακόπτη, όταν σκοτεινιάζει.
Παξιμάδια, τυρί και Happy Hippo, το βραδινό μου, μαζί με τα χάπια για τον πονοκέφαλο απ’ το αλκοόλ.
Και τα δάκρυα στα μάτια μου, έτοιμα να κυλήσουν στα μάγουλά μου.
Θα περάσει, πού θα πάει! Θα περάσει.
Θυμάμαι μια φορά, που είχαμε γυρίσει ξημερώματα απ’ τα μπουζούκια και πριν κοιμηθούμε, φτιάξαμε ομελέτα και τηγανητό ψωμί, γιατί πεινούσαμε.
Και μετά, αφήσαμε τα πιάτα στο τραπέζι και κάναμε έρωτα στον πάγκο της κουζίνας. Ξημερώματα, πριν πάμε να κοιμηθούμε αγκαλιασμένοι στο κρεβάτι μας.
Στιγμές μοναδικές! Έτσι ήταν όλη η αγάπη μας, όσο κράτησε.
Η αγάπη, όχι η συμβίωση.
Αυτή τράβηξε πολύ κι άφησε πίσω της μια ύπουλη πληγή, που δε λέει να γιατρευτεί και δουλεύει από μέσα, σαν σαράκι.

~HEAR ME OUT, Tzoutzi Mantzourani, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2015
http://www.libroslibertad.ca

 

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ΚΑΤΑΝΟΗΣΗ

 

Κυριακή. Γυαλίζουν τα κουμπιά στα σακκάκια
σα μικρά γέλια. Το λεωφορείο έφυγε.
Κάτι εύθυμες φωνές—παράξενο
να μπορείς ν’ ακούς και ν’ αποκρίνεσαι. Κάτω απ’ τα πεύκα
ένας εργάτης μαθαίνει φυσαρμόνικα. Μια γυναίκα
είπε σε κάποιον καλημέρα—μια τόσο απλή και φυσική
καλημέρα
που θάθελες κ’ εσύ να μάθεις φυσαρμόνικα κάτω απ’ τα πεύκα.

Όχι διαίρεση ή αφαίρεση. Να μπορείς να κοιτάζεις
έξω από σένα — ζεστασιά και ησυχία. Να μην είσαι
“μονάχα εσύ”, μα “και εσύ”. Μια μικρή πρόσθεση,
μια μικρή πράξη της πρακτικής αριθμητικής, ευκολονόητη,
που κ’ ένα παιδί μπορεί να την πετύχει παίζοντας στο φως
τα δάχτυλά του
ή παίζοντας αυτή τη φυσαρμόνικα για ν’ ακούσει η γυναίκα.

 
UNDERSTANIDNG

 

Sunday. Buttons of coats shine
like small laughter. The bus is gone.
Some cheerful voices – strange
that you can hear and you can answer. Under the pine trees
a worker is trying to learn harmonica. A woman
said good morning to someone – so simple and natural good
morning
that you too would like to learn to play harmonica under the pine trees.

Neither division nor subtraction. To be able to look outside
yourself – warmth and serenity. Not to be
‘just yourself ’ but ‘you too’. A small addition,
a small act of practical arithmetic easily understood
that even a child can successfully do by playing with his fingers
in the light
or playing this harmonica so the woman can hear it.
~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

The Best Literature Inspired by the Greek Islands

The Greek Islands have been a source of literary inspiration from the ancient times. The unique beauty of the natural landscape , the warm Mediterranean climate and distinct local culture are some of the reasons behind this inspiration. But also this small country’s hardships in the face of political changes and terrifying historical challenges have captured the attention of foreign and local authors. Below we have listed five of the most famous novels which take place in the Greek Islands.

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Table by the Sea in Greece © George Pachantouris/Flickr

Zorba the Greek (1946)
Zorba the Greek is perhaps the most famous Greek book by talented Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis. The book tells the story of a young Greek intellectual, the narrator, who spends a year in a rural village in the greek island of Crete with Zorba, a simple worker whose character is an antithesis of his own. Zorba is a man full of life and talents, with strong natural instincts and folk wisdom. The narrator slowly, and while experiencing the predicaments of rural life in Crete, comes to realise how weak his intellectual superiority is to Zorbas’ simple understanding of life. The book touched millions of hearts when it was turned into a movie in 1964 starring Anthony Queen. For many the character of Zorba became a popular symbol of Greek soul.

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Watching the Twilight in Patmos © Yiannis Theologos Michellis/Flickr
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (1994)

Another book also turned into a movie is Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières. Set in the Greek island of Cephallonia during the German and Italian occupation of the Second World War, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin narrates the touching love story of Italian young captain Antonio Corelli and Pelagia, the daughter of the local Greek doctor. The romance that develops under adversary circumstances has to suffer the strikes of fate when Italy joins forces with the Allies and the Germans on the island turn on the Italians. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is an emotionally charged story that works on different levels: It is a love story and war story and at the same time a historic account that reflects many of the bitter untold realities of the country’s wartime suffering.

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Scan1©TakaUmemura/Flickr
The Island (2005)

Victoria Hislop’s literary debut, the Island, begins with a woman travelling to the island of Crete in search of her mother’s past. She is surprised to find out that her mother’s native village of Plaka is near the island of Spinaloga, a former Greek leper colony. She will then learn from a family friend the tragic story of her mother’s family through three generations of tumultuous lives and passions. Victoria Hislop was awarded the 2007 British Book Award for the Island, and it also became a popular series for Greek television – To Nisi – and the most expensive television production ever in Greece.

The Two Faces of January (1964)
Patricia Highsmith’s 1964 psychological thriller narrates the story of an American con-artist Chester McFarland and his wife Colette, who find themselves in trouble in Greece when Chester accidentally kills a Greek policeman in his hotel room in Athens. A young American lawyer helps the couple to flee to Crete, where they settle in a hotel. But more trouble emerges there as the trio turn on each other and tragedy falls in the ancient site of Knossos. The story follows the classic Patricia Highsmith breathtaking storytelling pattern that moves the action to different locations: after Crete, back to Athens, and then to a whole new setting altogether in Paris. The Greek island becomes the “far away land” and offers an ideal setting for the emotions to rise and the action to culminate.

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Odysseus and the Sirens. An 1891 painting by John William Waterhouse © National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne/WikiCommons
Odyssey (8th Century BC)

The world-famous ancient epic poem by Greek poet Homer is perhaps the one that captures the imagination the most, as it draws on an ancient past of heroes and mythical creatures. Three thousand years have passed since Odysseus found Ithaca again, and visitors from around the world still visit the island in the search of archaeological findings of Penelope’s palace. The epic Odyssey of the Greek hero who wondered ten years in the ancient seas searching for his homeland, Ithaca , will never cease to amaze, excite and inspire.

http://www.theculturetrip.com/europe/greece

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BURDEN

He put his bag on the floor
laid next to me
he raised one leg and
leaned it against the wall
as though to leave on it
a fleshy mark
a faint human trace
the other leg was resting
on the cool cement

suddenly as though he remembered
something very important

he got up
walked to the table
leaned down and smelt
the last bloomed rose
then he let a sigh float
in the darkened room
as though to release
burden of his last breath
and without any word
on the cool cement he collapsed.
ΒΑΡΟΣ

Έβαλε το σακούλι του στο πάτωμα
πλάγιασε δίπλα μου,
το ένα πόδι ακούμπησε
στον τοίχο σαν να `θελε
ν’ αφήσει ένα χνάρι ανθρώπινο,

το άλλο πόδι ξεκουράζονταν
στο δροσερό τσιμέντο.

Ξαφνικά σαν να θυμήθηκε
κάτι πολύ σοβαρό

σηκώθηκε και βημάτισε
στο τραπέζι, γονάτισε και
μύρισε το μοναδικό τριαντάφυλλο.
Άφησε ένα στεναγμό να αιωρηθεί
στο σκοτεινό δωμάτιο
σαν να `θελε να ελευθερωθεί από
κάποιο βάρος της τελευταίας του
ανάσας και χωρίς λέξη να πεί
στη δροσιά του τσιμέντου κατέρευσε

DELPHI

Even this solemn remnant
of the ancient temple standing
like an anchorite in meditation
by the slope of the tired hill
even this they shall defile

remember it—I said

half-breed men with wide shoulder-blades
and hierodules with exquisite cheekbones
swaying their provocative buttocks
for the amusement of the winds
and for the sea’s virgin salinity
even this they shall defile

remember it—I said

aimlessly before the innocent statues
they shall desecrate and life the whore
they shall call and with stamina
and unyielding persistence they shall
bury the primeval beauty and after
they exhume the ancestral hatred
and guilt, the pneuma they shall imprison
to be guarded by Herculean arms
and theirs the wealth of the valley and
my kin’s reward bloodshed in streets and
neighborhoods where you and I once roamed and
played making plans for exploits and deeds

and you said—

it would have been better if we stayed
obedient to the holy and venerable
half-truths brought to our lands by easterners
at least they promised a gleaming Paradise
ΔΕΛΦΟΙ

Κι αυτό το απομεινάρι του πανάρχαιου ναού
σάν αναχωρητής του πεπρωμένου
που στην πλαγιά βουνού διαλογίζεται
κι αυτό μια μέρα θα το βεβηλώσουν

να το θυμάσαι—είπα

άντρες μιγάδες με τις φαρδιές τίς ωμοπλάτες
και ιερόδουλες με ζυγωματικά εξαίσια
τούς προκλητικούς γλουτούς κουνώντας
για τούς ανέμους ευδαιμονικά και
για τής θάλασσας τήν πρώτη αρμύρα

να το θυμάσαι—είπα

άσεμνα καταμπροστά στ’ αθώα αγάλματα
θα ιεροσυλύσουν και τη ζωή πόρνη θα πούν
με μένος και μ’ άτεκτη επιμονή βαθιά
θα θάψουν τούς παμπάλαιους θεσμούς
κι αφού αναστήσουν το πρωπατορικό μίσος
και την ενοχή, το πνεύμα θα κλείσουνε
σε φυλακή, νεκρούς νόμους θα βάλουν
για σκοπιά που να κρατούν τα μπράτσα
τής αλκής στα σίδερα και στις φωτιές
του πρωαιώνιου κακού, δικός τους ο πλούτος
της κοιλάδας και του λαού μου ο μιστός μόνο
το αίμα χυμένο σε δρόμους και σε γειτονιές
που κάποτες εσύ και γω ξέγνοιαστα παίζαμε
όνειρα σχεδιάζοντας και κατορθώματα

κι είπες—

καλό θε να `τανε να μέναμε πιστοί στα όσια
και ιερά που κάποιοι φέρανε στη γη μας
κι άς ήταν νόθα και λειψά τουλάχιστον
είχαν σαν αμοιβή το γοητευτικό παράδεισο

http://www.ekstasiseditions.com