Posts Tagged ‘translation’

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

 

 

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Η ΔΥΣΚΟΛΗ ΚΥΡΙΑΚΗ (ΜΙΛΤΟΥ ΣΑΧΤΟΥΡΗ)

 
Απ’ το πρωί κοιτάζω προς τ’ απάνω ένα πουλί καλύτερο
απ’ το πρωί χαίρομαι ένα φίδι τυλιγμένο στο λαιμό μου

Σπασμένα φλυτζάνια στα χαλιά
πορφυρά λουλούδια τα μάγουλα της μάντισσας
όταν ανασηκώνει της μοίρας το φουστάνι
κάτι θα φυτρώσει απ’ αυτή τη χαρά
ένα νέο δέντρο χωρίς ανθούς
ή ένα αγνό νέο βλέφαρο
ή ένας λατρεμένος λόγος
που να μη φίλησε στο στόμα τη λησμονιά

Έξω αλαλάζουν οι καμπάνες
έξω με περιμένουν αφάνταστοι φίλοι
σηκώσανε ψηλά στριφογυρίζουνε μια χαραυγή
τι κούραση τι κούραση
κίτρινο φόρεμα -κεντημένος ένας αετός-
πράσινος παπαγάλος -κλείνω τα μάτια- κράζει
πάντα πάντα πάντα
η ορχήστρα παίζει κίβδηλους σκοπούς
τι μάτια παθιασμένα τι γυναίκες
τι έρωτες τι φωνές τι έρωτες
φίλε αγάπη αίμα φίλε
φίλε δωσ’ μου το χέρι σου τι κρύο

Ήτανε παγωνιά
δεν ξέρω πια την ώρα που πέθαναν όλοι
κι έμεινα μ’ έναν ακρωτηριασμένο φίλο
και μ’ ένα ματωμένο κλαδάκι συντροφιά

 

 

DIFFICULT SUNDAY by MILTOS SACHTOURIS

 

I’ve been looking up at a better bird since morning

I’ve been better enjoying a snake wrapped around my neck since morning

 

broken cups on the carpet

purple flowers on the cheeks of the seer

when she lifts the skirt of Fate

something will sprout out of this joy

a new tree without blossoms

or a pure young eyelid

or a beloved word

that wouldn’t kiss the lips of forgetfulness

 

bells chime out there

my imaginary friends wait for me out there

they’re lifting and circling around a dawn

what tediousness, what tediousness

yellow dress — the embroidered eagle —

the green parrot — I close my eyes — it caws

always always always

the orchestra plays cheap tunes

what passionate eyes, what women

what loves, what cries, what loves

love my friend, blood my friend

give me your hand, my friend, such cold

 

it was freezing

I no longer know the time they all died

and I remained with my amputee friend

and with the bloodied twig as a companion

 

ANTHOLOGY OF NEOHELLENIC POETRY, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Ekstasis Editions, Victoria, BC, Autumn 2017

 

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ΝΥΧΤΕΡΙΝΗ ΜΟΥΣΙΚΗ

 

Ένα χέρι που ρίχνει κάθε τόσο στάρι στη φωτιά,

ένα μονόφθαλμο ψάρι που διασχίζει το δωμάτιο,

τα κρυφά ζώα της νύχτας πίσω απ’ τα σπίτια

κι αυτός καθισμένος στο κρεβάτι με μια τανάλια.

Ο Πέτρος μπήκε στο λουτρό να πλύνει τα χέρια του.

Εγώ κοιτάω αμέτοχος. Κρατώ κλειστή την ομπρέλα.

 

 

 

NIGHT MUSIC

 

A hand that so often throws wheat on the fire;

a one-eyed fish that crosses the room;

the secret animals of the night behind the houses;

and he’s sitting on the bed with a pair of pliers.

Peter entered the bathroom to wash his hands.

I look as though uninvolved. I hold the folded umbrella.

 

 

www.libroslibertad.com

www.manolisaligizakis.com

www.ekstasiseditions.com

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

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ΒΕΒΑΙΟΤΗΤΑ ;

 

Η κάθε λέξη είναι ένα θαύμα — είπε ο Αλέξανδρος. Σηκώνω

μια μικρή πέτρα, βρίσκω δυο μερμήγκια — το `να κουτσαίνει,

στέκομαι στο παράθυρο, ρίχνω τα μύγδαλα στο δρόμο, βλέπω

τον όμορφο δρομέα να χάνεται κάτω απ’ τα δέντρα. Ακούγεται

το κουδούνι της πόρτας. Πριν ανοίξω, μπαίνει η Ουρανία

κρατώντας ένα δίσκο σκεπασμένο με τα χαμένα κλειδιά μου.

 

 

 

CERTAINTY ?

 

Every word is a miracle – Alexander said. I lift

a small stone, I find two ants – one of them limps;

I stand by the window, I throw the almonds down the street; I see

the handsome runner vanishing under the trees. The doorbell

is heard. Before I open, Urania enters

holding a covered platter with my lost keys.

 

 

www.libroslibertad.com

www.manolisaligizakis.com

www.ekstasiseditions.com

 

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ΕΠΟΧΗ

 

Σελίδες από μια χαμένη επανάσταση που στα περιθώρια γράψαμε

κι εμείς τη ζωή μας —

ώ, μεγάλη ακατανόητη εποχή, που άξαφνα ο ένας καταλαβαίνει

τον άλλο.

 

 

 

SEASON

 

Pages from a lost revolution that in its margins we also wrote

our lives —

oh, great incomprehensible season when suddenly one understands

the other.

 

 

 

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

www.libroslibertad.com

www.manolisaligizakis.com

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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

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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.

 

 

 

 

My poetry book AUTUMN LEAVES translated in French by Károly Sándor Pallai, on the self of the Miskolc Library in Hungary.

 

Το βιβλίο μου ΦΥΛΛΑ ΦΘΙΝΟΠΩΡΟΥ σε μετάφραση στα γαλλικά από τον Károly Sándor Pallai διαθέσιμο στη βιβλιοθήκη Miskolc στην Ουγγαρία.

 

Des recueils en français de notre auteur gréco-canadien Manolis Aligizakis et de notre auteur hongrois de Slovaquie Károly Fellinger traduits par Károly Sándor Pallai dans une bibliothèque de Miskolc (Hongrie) !

 

Books in French of our author Greco-Canadian Manolis Aligizakis and our authorHungarian Slovakia Károly Fellinger translated by Károly Sándor Pallai in a library of miskolc (Hungary)

 

~Manolis Aligizakis//Μανώλης Αλυγιζάκης

 

 

CONSTANTINE  P. CAVAFY a discussion

 

Constantine P. Cavafy, along with a few other twentieth century Greek poets such as George Seferis, Odysseus Elytis, Yiannis Ritsos, Kostis Palamas and Andreas Kalvos, established the revival of Greek poetry both in Greece and abroad. They emerged as the new era of contemporary Greek poets at a time when the use of the Greek language was swept by the conflict between the old, “καθαρεύουσα—katharevoussa” traditional form of language and the more common “δημοτική—demotiki”, plebian or demotic as it was called.

Cavafy used both the traditional and the demotic modes although mostly the latter; he spent most of his life in Alexandria under the influence of the almighty Greek Orthodox Church and the day before his death he took communion as if to declare that he was ready; as if he was prepared for his transformation, from the modern poet, Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis of Greece to the Cavafy of the World. It is said that in the last minutes of his life he took pencil and paper and drew a big circle with a single dot in the middle.

It had only been twenty years since his death when one of the most famous bookstores in London advertised that: “We carry the best ever books: from Chaucer to Cavafy.” In 1919 Cavafy was introduced to the English reading public by E.M. Forster who helped establish his reputation in the Western World.

His poems combine the precision of a master craftsman with the sensitivity of Sappho as they are concise, yet intimate when their subject is  erotic love, mostly between men. Real characters as well as imaginary, historical events as well as fictional are his inspiration; the questionable future, the sensual pleasures, the wandering morality of the many, the psychology of the individual and that of the masses, homosexuality, certain atavistic beliefs and an existential nostalgia are some of his themes. Cavafy’s conscience projected his crystal clear belief in the immortal written word, which he bequeathed unto the four corners of the world.

On the 100th anniversary of his birthday and thirty years after his death, his complete works were published by “Ikaros” in 1963. This edition was prepared up to a point, we could say, by the poet himself who had kept all his poems in a concise and exact order; each poem on a page (which was pinned in exact chronological order on top of the proceeding page); his older poems were turned into booklet form which traditionally consisted of 16 pages although in this case the length is questionable. The sequence of the poems in these booklets was not chronological but thematic and depended on how he chose to emphasize their coherence. These booklets were mailed to anyone who asked for them. In the last years of his life he published two such booklets, one containing his poems written between the years 1905-1915 and the other with his poems of 1916-1918; every poem published during those fourteen years were included in these two booklets.

Cavafy was concise and accurate; so much so that he would work on each of his verses again and again making sure that it was in its final and perfect form before he would mail it to anyone; most of this of course is lost in the translation, as such an element in writing is impossible to replicate in another language. He drew most of his inspiration for the historical poems from the first and second centuries B.C. and the Hellinistic Era of Alexandria around and after the days of Alexander the Great. His love poems were entirely devoted to adult love between men; there is not a single mention of a woman as the subject of erotic love in his poems. The image of the kore, an erotic subject of other poets, is absent from his stanzas. Reference to women in Cavafy’s work is only about older, mature and gracious figures playing out their roles in the Hellinistic era or Byzantium’s golden age.

Cavafy wrote mostly in free verse although there were times when he used rhyme to emphasize irony; the number of syllables per verse varied from ten to seventeen.

Cavafy’s inspiration derives from many different subjects; in one of the well- known poems, Ithaka, he explores, like Odysseus on his return to his home island after the Trojan War, the pleasure and importance of the way to a goal rather than the goal itself, and shows that the process of achieving something is important because of all the experience it makes possible.

In the poem Waiting for the Barbarians we see the importance of the influence that people and events outside of the country may have in the lives of the inhabitants of a certain place and it can quite easily be related to today’s doctrine of “war on terror” after the attack of September, 2001 and the role that fear of the foreigner, or the enemy, plays in the decision making process of a nation. A parallel can be drawn between today’s “war on terror” and the final verses of the poem…

And what are we to become without the barbarians?

                 These people were some kind of a solution.” 

 

In the poem Thermopylae Cavafy explores the subject of duty, responsibility, and most importantly, the idea of paying the “debt”; he seems to believe in the philosophical principle of the Universal Balance which exists everywhere, and when that balance is disturbed by the actions of one man another person needs to reestablish it: in this case the poem refers to the treason by Ephialtes which disturbs that preexisting balance and  which the leader of the 300 Lacedaimonians, Leonidas, tries to counter—balance by his act of self sacrifice.  The crucifixion of Christ has the same philosophical base. Odusseus Elytis refers to the same subject in the Genesis of his Axion Esti (it is worthy) where he says that the Old Wise Creator prepared the four Great Voids on earth and in the body of man:

 

           “…the void of Death for the Upcoming Child

            the void of Killing for the Right Judgment

            the void of Sacrifice for the Equal Retribution

            the void of the Soul for the Responsibility of the Other…”

 

Isolation and the sense of enclosure unfolds in Cavafy’s poem “Walls” which is relevant to today as some countries tend to resort to it as  a means of defense against foreign influences coming from the outside and changing the thinking of the people, but also as a reason for becoming self-sufficient and self-reliant.

There are a lot of satirical connotations and humor in some poems and one such poem stands out: Nero’s Deadline where the poet laughs at the way a person perceives their time on earth. The same subject is referred to by the better known Greek saying: “You like to make God laugh, go and tell Him your plans…”

The extent to which a politician or a system may stretch truth in order to achieve a goal and the axiom “history repeats itself” are adamantly present in Cavafy’s poetry as we see the travesty of events when presented to the public from an official position:

“…the gigantic lie of the palace—Antony triumphed in Greece.”

The lies a government may throw at people in order to deceive. Today’s “…war on terror…” is such a travesty and it resembles an umbrella harboring under it various means and purposes of deluding the populace; at other times this is a means of camouflaging the inability of the governing party to conduct themselves in a fair and balanced way.

Cavafy’s work was at times caustic and irony was used frequently to emphasize a point. Vagenas writes: “Cavafy is the only poet who uses irony as the main mechanism of poetic creativity. His precise dramatic as well as tragic irony is the element that makes his use of the language produce a deep poetic emotion, rendering the verbal sensualism unnecessary.”

Cavafy expresses views of his era looked at through the eyes of the Greek immigrant, or the Greek of the Diaspora. The survival of and adherence to Greek values is what Cavafy cares to preserve and his poetry reflects this by doing justice to his great wish that the Greek language might spread to the far ends of the Bactrian Lands. The heroic stubbornness that proudly said ‘No’ to convention and settling down, the pursuit of true life which carries on ceaselessly, dragging along mud and diamonds, mixing the old with the new, joining the yes with the no, opening new horizons at any moment, birthing new hopes and views at any second is the life Cavafy wanted to spread all over the known world.

Most reviewers and analysts of Cavafy’s work have pronounced him a homosexual although that may be taken with a grain of salt. The western commentaries clearly and as a matter of fact have concluded that he was

homosexual whereas some of the Greek commentators are reluctant to openly agree with that notion; In our view the author can only be classified this or that based on documented data such as pictures, or direct associations of the commentator with the author, and in this case there are no such data available. Yet when a poet writes so many erotic poems having as his subject young men of twenty to twenty nine years old and with not a single woman ever being referred to as a subject of erotic love, it is easy and understandable to assume that the person under discussion is a homosexual; yet there is another angle one may take: the angle of the alter ego that a writer creates in his work to compliment or better yet to refine his image in his own eyes before the eyes of the reading public, as in the case of Cavafy; In some of his personal writings we read:

“I have to put an end to this myself, by the first of April otherwise I won’t be able to travel. I’ll get sick and how am I to enjoy my voyage when I’m sick?”

        “March 16th: Midnight. I succumbed again. Despair, despair, despair. There is no hope. Unless I end this by the 15th of April. God help me.”

In another note:

“I am tormented. I got up and I am writing now. What am I to do and

what is going to happen. What am I to do? Help. I am lost.”

In these personal notes of a despairing man who seeks help we see the distress of a person not because they react to their just concluded homosexual encounter but rather their despair in their self-consumed sexual satisfaction through masturbation and the guilt associated with it…Let us not forget that Cavafy grew up in an era of the Diaspora when the Greek Orthodox Church dominated the lives of the populace in such a strict way that any movement outside the dogmatic rules of Christian doctrine was considered a serious and unforgivable sin; I personally remember as a young lad reading the famous booklet “Holy Epistle” with its frightening images of brimstone and fire coming down from the heavens to sear the sinners who would commit any kind of sexual or other sin. It was quite purposefully given to me to read in my early teen years and it took decades before I came to the realization that I didn’t need this nonsense in my life. This was the world Cavafy grew up in and when he had his first chance of being on his own he made his best effort of rebellion against such suppressing doctrine in order to liberate himself from the pangs of church inflicted fear; when one looks at his life from this point of view one can simply see the reaction of a man expressed in a unique way directly opposed to the expected and well formatted way of the church.

Atanasio Cortato, Cavafy’s personal friend and confidant, writes:

“Cavafy’s homosexuality is questionable. One needs to apply a deep and objective study on his life and perhaps conclude that Cavafy was not homosexual. None ever came along with concrete evidence for this and no scandal of any kind is attributed to him.”

This declaration is of double importance because it is the declaration of Cavafy’s personal friend who knew the poet well and who would have known of any scandal should there have been one in which the poet was involved. Yet there was no such scandal documented or told.

Another view expressed by Stratis Tsirkas and J.M. Hatzifotis was that

Cavafy’s passion was not his homosexuality but rather his alcoholism and his tendency to masturbation. The poet was a very shy person by nature, and although when his mood struck him was a very stimulating and entertaining host, it was impossible for him to proceed into a homosexual relationship. Under this lens his erotic poetry is nothing but his fantasizing of the unrealized…

George Seferis referring to Cavafy as the deceptive old man of the Alexandrian Sea, Proteus, who always changes appearance, says: “For this reason we have to be careful, and exercise caution, not to be seduced by our own tendencies or by taking as given his words and dialectic inventions based on their superficial sense.”

A different aspect of his erotic poems can be found when one sees the time and place in which the poet lived as an adult and on his own. We make this last comment because it is known that Cavafy lived with his mother until her death in 1899 and after that he moved in with his brother John until 1906 when John left for Cairo. At that time Cavafy moved in with his brother Paul until he also moved away to Paris. Then the poet started living on his own. Having to work for a living in such a polyethnic city as Alexandria where the influences of three continents mingled and at times collided and always being under the watchful eye of the all- powerful Greek Orthodox Church with its dogmatism and stubbornness, Cavafy, like any other man of letters, questioned a lot of what was going on around him.

One can easily theorize that all the eroticism and rebelliousness expressed by the young lovers of his poems are nothing but the reactions of a person who lived almost all his adult life with family members and who, in his new found freedom, rebelled against established values and questioned well positioned dogmatism. One can easily theorize that Cavafy fantasized about things he wished for rather than recording things he had experienced. From that point of view the eroticism of his poems can be seen as an expression of suppressed feelings he had for years, yet feelings he never got the courage to act upon.

Cavafy lived in the polyethnic city of Alexandria; he moved and breathed around the Greek Community and a moral and law abiding way of life is clearly Greek in its essence. The law that applied to Greeks in Alexandria is that of France which is not much different than the Greek law yet different than the law applied to the locals. Therefore the homosexuality and lawlessness of some of his poetry has to do with the moral, communal and law abiding way of life of the Greek Community of Alexandrian society. Cavafy had a good knowledge of that and that knowledge guided him in such a way that his bolder and more daring poems which would have created an uproar in the established code of conduct of Alexandrian Greek Society were only released in 1920 when the poet had become very well-known and had carved a space in the creative society of his era. He was at that time established as a very successful poet and none dared dispute this or accuse him of anything.

 

~Manolis Aligizakis, Vancouver, BC