Tasos Livaditis/translated by Manolis Aligizakis

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ΕΚΛΕΚΤΙΚΕΣ ΣΥΓΓΕΝΕΙΕΣ

 

Η φτωχή Ραχήλ, ωχρή, με ανίατα όνειρα, θεραπευόταν τώρα

ανάμεσα στα μαύρα δέντρα, όπως ένα τυφλός που με το φλάουτο

κάνει ν’ανθίζει το σκοτάδι ή όπως τα παιδικά παιγνίδια που μια

μέρα εξαφανίζονται σα να τα πήρε μαζί του το παιδί — καθώς

πέθαινε, περίλυπο, μέσα στον άντρα.

 

 

 

SELECTED RELATIONS

 

Poor Rachel, pale, with incurable dreams, now healing herself

among the black trees like the blind man who with his flute makes

the darkness bloom or like the childhood games that one day

suddenly vanish as though a child took them along — as it was dying

sorrowfully into adulthood.

 

 

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

www.libroslibertad.com

www.manolisaligizakis.com

Arc Poetry Magazine Review

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: Matzourani’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.

 

 

Yannis Ritsos/translated by Manolis Aligizakis

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ΔΙΑΔΟΧΗ

 

Ο ήλιος δε λογαριάζει τίποτε απ’ τους δισταγμούς σου—

γυμνόν σε θέλει και γυμνόν σε παίρνει,

ώσπου έρχεται η νύχτα να σε ντύσει.

 

Μετά τον ήλιο είναι η μετάνοια.

Μετά τη μετάνοια πάλι ο ήλιος.

 

SUCCESSION

 

The sun doesn’t think of your hesitations –

it wants you naked and it takes you naked

until the night comes to dress you

 

After the sun there is repentance

after repentance the sun again

 

Γιάννη Ρίτσου-Ποιήματα, Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη

Yannis Ritsos-Poems, translated by Manolis Aligizakis

www.manolisaligizakis.com

www.libroslibertad.com

Tasos Livaditis

 Tasos Livaditis_Vanilla

ΚΑΚΟΙ ΜΑΘΗΤΕΣ

 

Και τα τζάμια με τις πεθαμένες μύγες το φθινόπωρο, σαν τις

μεγάλες σελίδες των βιβλίων, τότε που δεν ξέραμε ακόμα να

διαβάζουμε.

Κύριε, εξήγησέ μας.

 

 

 BAD STUDENTS

 

And the windows with the dead flies in the autumn like the long

pages of books when we didn’t yet know how to read

Lord, explain to us.

 

www.manolisaligizakis.com

www.libroslibertad.com

 

Cloe and Alexandra

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ΓΥΜΝΙΑ

 

Χθες βράδυ σ’ ονειρεύτηκα.

Με τα φώτα της πόλης για μάτια,

 

το σώμα γυμνό,

 

μυρωδιά ανοιξιάτικης λεύκας

και για μόνο κάλυμμα

 

το σκοτάδι.

                      

 

NAKEDNESS

 

Last night I dreamed of you.

Under the city lights

 

your body naked

 

scent of spring poplar

and for cover

 

only darkness.

 

~CLOE and ALEXANDRA, μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη, Libros Libertad, 2013

www.libroslibertad.com

www.manolisaligizakis.com

 

 

Kostas Karyotakis

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ΣΕ ΠΑΛΑΙΟ ΣΥΜΦΟΙΤΗΤΗ

Φίλε, ἡ καρδιά μου τώρα σὰ νὰ ἐγέρασε.
Τελείωσεν ἡ ζωή μου τῆς Ἀθήνας,
ποὺ ὅμοια γλυκὰ καὶ μὲ τὸ γλέντι ἐπέρασε
καὶ μὲ τὴν πίκρα κάποτε τῆς πείνας.

Δὲ θά ῾ρθω πιὰ στὸν τόπο ποὺ ἡ πατρίδα μου
τὸν ἔδωκε τὸ γιόρτασμα τῆς νιότης,
παρὰ περαστικός, μὲ τὴν ἐλπίδα μου,
μὲ τ᾿ ὄνειρο ποὺ ἐσβήστη, ταξιδιώτης.

Προσκυνητὴς θὰ πάω κατὰ τὸ σπίτι σου
καὶ θὰ μοῦ ποῦν δὲν ξέρουν τί ἐγίνης.
Μ᾿ ἄλλον μαζὶ θὰ ἰδῶ τὴν Ἀφροδίτη σου
κι ἄλλοι τὸ σπίτι θά ῾χουν τῆς Εἰρήνης.

Θὰ πάω πρὸς τὴν ταβέρνα, τὸ σαμιώτικο
ποὺ ἐπίναμε γιὰ νὰ ξαναζητήσω.
Θὰ λείπεις, τὸ κρασί τους θά᾿ ναι ἀλλιώτικο,
ὅμως ἐγὼ θὰ πιῶ καὶ θὰ μεθύσω.

Θ᾿ ἀνέβω τραγουδώντας καὶ τρεκλίζοντας
στὸ Ζάππειο ποὺ ἐτραβούσαμεν ἀντάμα.
Τριγύρω θά ῾ναι ὡραῖα πλατὺς ὁ ὁρίζοντας,
καὶ θά ῾ναι τὸ τραγούδι μου σὰν κλάμα.

 

FOR AN OLD FELLOW STUDENT

 

Now that my heart has aged, my friend

and my years in Athens have passed

sweetly and joyously in parties

and sometimes in the grief of hunger

 

I won’t ever return to the homeland that

graced me with the celebration of youth

but only as a hoping passerby

traveller with my dream that vanished

 

a pilgrim I’ll go back to your house

to find out they don’t know where you are.

Along with someone else I’ll meet your Aphrodite

while others will occupy the house of peace.

 

I’ll go to the tavern to re-order

the Samos wine we used to drink

I’ll miss you and their wine will taste different

yet I’ll drink and I’ll get drunk

 

singing and staggering I’ll go

to Zappeion where we used to go together

the horizon will be wide open all around

and my song will sound like a lament.

 

Kostas Karyotakis//NEOHELLENIC POETRY—AN ANTHOLOGY, Libros libertad, 2016

 

www.manolisaligizakis.com

Karyotakis/Polydouri–The Tragic Love Story

maria-polydouri

ΔΕ ΘΑ ΞΑΝΑΡΘΗΣ ΠΙΑ…

Δὲ θὰ ξανἄρθης πιά, νὰ μοῦ χαρίσης
ἀπ᾿ τὴν ὡραία ζωὴ ποὺ σὲ φλογίζει
κάτι, ἕνα της λουλούδι; Σοῦ γεμίζει
μὲ τόσα τὴν καρδιὰ καὶ τὸ κορμί.

Δὲ θἄρθης πιά, τὰ χέρια μου νὰ σμίξης
τὰ παγωμένα, τὰ ἐχθρικά μου χέρια;
Πλάι στὰ δικά σου, μερωμένα ταίρια
δὲν τὰ ζυγώνει πλέον ἡ ἀφορμή.

Δὲ θἄρθης! …Πὼς ἀργὰ περνοῦν οἱ μέρες.
Κι᾿ ὅσο σὺ φεύγεις, τόσο μὲ σιμώνει
ἡ γνώριμή μου μοίρα. Τόσο μόνη,
τόσον καιρὸ μὲ τὸν κρυφὸ καημό.

Δὲ σοῦ περνάει, ἀλήθεια ἀπὸ τὴ σκέψη
ὅτι μπορεῖ σὲ μία στιγμὴ θλιμμένη,
στὴ μοίρα αὐτὴ ποὺ πάντα μὲ προσμένει
νὰ πάω ξανὰ καὶ δίχως γυρισμό;

 

YOU WON’T RETURN

You won’t return anymore to grace me with

something from the gifts the beautiful life

has graced you: a flower perhaps? The life

that fills your heart and body with such beauty.

 

You won’t return anymore to take my hands

that froze as if an enemy’s hands?

Joined with yours, calm pair of hands

that need doesn’t come near them any longer.

 

You won’t return! And the days pass by slowly

and as you go away my familiar fate

comes close to me, alone

for so long with the secret grief.

 

Don’t you ever think that perhaps, truly

in sad moment I’ll direct myself

to the fateful end that awaits me

and never to return?

 

KARYOTAKIS-POLYDOURI, THE TRAGIC LOVE STORY, Libros Libertad, 2016

www.manolisaligizakis.com

Γιάννης Ρίτσος//Yannis Ritsos

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ΑΠΟΦΥΓΗ ΑΠΑΝΤΗΣΗΣ

 

Πώς έμειναν έτσι χωρίς νόημα μες στο ήσυχο απόγευμα

οι ωραίες γραμμές των λόφων, οι φωνές απ’ τ’ αμπέλια,

τα δυο λεωφορεία στον απέναντι δρόμο, πίσω απ’ τα ηλιοτρόπια,

τα λιόδεντρα, μισά στο φως, μισά στον ίσκιο, το ρολόι της εκκλησίας,

κι αυτός που πριονίζει αόρατος—πιθανόν ένα δέντρο

ή το σκαμνί της κωφάλαλης γριάς ή το μεγάλο τραπέζι

του παλιού πυρπολημένου πανδοχείου. Και τ’ άλογο ακόμη

που φάνηκε μέσα στις κίτρινες καλαμποκιές — δεν ξέρω

τί ν’ απαντήσω, δεν ξέρω γιατί. Και το φως κοκκινίζει,

και το μενεξεδένιο αχνίζει λίγο λίγο τα βουνά και τα χαρτιά μου.

 

 

AVOIDING TO ANSWER

 

How the beautiful lines of hills, the voices from vineyards

remained so meaningless in the quiet afternoon,

the two buses on the opposite street, behind the heliotropes,

the olive trees, half in the sunlight, half in the shade, the church clock

and the one who saws quite unseen – a tree perhaps

or the stool of the deaf old woman or the big table

of the old burnt-up hostel. And even the horse

that appeared amid the yellow corn fields – I don’t know

what to answer; I don’t know why. And the light turns red,

and the violet slowly steams up the mountains and my papers.

 

 

 

YANNIS RITSOS — POEMS, Ekstasis Editions, 2013

ΓΙΑΝΝΗ ΡΙΤΣΟΥ — Ποιήματα/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη

 

www.manolisaligizakis.com

Cloe and Alexandra

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ΠΡΟΧΕΙΡΟ ΣΤΡΩΜΑ

 

Αφού έφυγαν οι υπάλληλοι,

αργά το απόγευμα, την περίμενε

στο γραφείο του.

Ξεντύθηκαν, και η λαίμαργη γλώσσα του

έφτασε μέχρι τα πόδια της,

κι όπως ήταν παγωμένα

με το στόμα του τα ζέστανε.

Έσμιξαν στο πάτωμα,

σ’ ένα πρόχειρο στρώμα

από μεγάλα μαξιλάρια του καναπέ.

 

 

 

IMPROVISED BED

 

When the personnel left,

late in the afternoon, he

waited for her in his office.

They stripped naked and his hungry tongue

travelled down to her feet

frozen from the cold

he warmed them with his mouth.

They coupled on the floor,

on an improvised bed made of

the big pillows of the couch.

Cloe and Alexandra, Translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2013

www.manolisaligizakis.com

Kostas Karyotakis//Κώστας Καρυωτάκης

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ΘΑΛΑΣΣΑ

Ὅμως τὰ στήθια ποὺ τὰ ταράζει κάποιο
θανάσιμο πάθος δὲν θὰ γαληνέψουν

Τὰ σύννεφα γιγάντικα φαντάζουν κι ἀσημένια
στὸ μολυβένιον οὐρανὸ
σὰν τὰ χτυπᾷ τοῦ ἥλιου τὸ φῶς· σὰν τὰ χτυπᾷ ὁ ἀγέρας
φεύγουνε πίσω ἀπ᾿ τὸ βουνό.

Κι εἶναι θεριὸ ἡ θάλασσα. Τὸ παρδαλό της χρῶμα
δίνει της — μπλαβὸ ἐκεῖ μακριά,
πιὸ δῶθε ἀνοιχτοπράσινο κι ἀκόμα δῶθε γκρίζο —
κάποια παράξενη θωριά.

SEA

 

Yet the heart that was stirred

by a deadly passion will never relax

 

the clouds seem gigantic and silvery

onto the leaden sky

as if the sun reflection shines on them

as if the wind blows onto them

they run behind the mountain

 

the sea is a beast and its colorful surface,

dark blue at the far side

nearer light green and closer gray,

as if dressing it with a strange garment

 

 

KOSTAS KARYOTAKIS//translated by Manolis Aligizakis

www.manolisaligizakis.com