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Readings from 'Austerity Measures: The New Greek Poetry' April 28, 2017

In celebration of the end of poetry month, several poets featured in Austerity Measures: The New Greek Poetry sent in videos of themselves reading one of their poems from the anthology. We love that each video has its own distinct style, often reflecting the mood of the poems being read—and there's even a cat (named Djidjika) in one of them and a breathtaking view of the Acropolis in another. We've also thrown in some videos from the launch event for the anthology at McNally Jackson Booksellers in NYC. We have provided the English translations of the poems below each video.

AROUND THE HOUSE by Danae Sioziou

She wasn’t paying attention
maybe she didn’t even notice
she simply continued cutting
beyond the pears she was peeling
her hands

Blood ran gently
from the lines of fate
of life of love
and into the sink
and swirled around among the dirty dishes
and the scraps of food

Her cat, uneasy,
ran up to her
and with sincere fellow feeling
licked her wounds
while she

for a split second
saw herself
through its glassy cat eyes
a stranger

imprisoned in a filthy cage
a ceiling without sunrise
little beetles on the floor
in the sink a dark lake
she soaked her hands in
and now it shines, crowned with
the white frost of detergent

From the depths of the sink
rise full moons brilliant white
she thought
let me at least
finish the dishes today

(trans. by Rachel Hadas)

 
NOON by Moma Radic

You await
the rain like a finger
you invite the clouds
bearing vacant
caresses

The face of your heart
slips like a snail

And all things that glow
feet of snakes arms bodies
in sweat

leave traces
behind.

(Trans. by Chloe Haralambous and Moira Egan)

 

FISH by Elena Penga

Take a look at that. The fish change color. When the male
gets excited he turns black. He rises to the surface with
the female, and as soon as they have sex, he turns silver
again. There are so many and they’re so excited, it looks
like lights flickering on and off. See them?
We’re so high up. I can’t see anything.
Can you see the fishermen?
Yes. I hate them.
Why?
Because they catch fish. They’re not at all friendly.
That’s the way fishermen are. They’re not friendly. They’re
superstitious. If they take you out fishing and catch a lot
of fish, they take you out again. Then they want to take
you out all the time.

(Trans. by Karen Van Dyck)

THE DOGS by Stathis Antoniou

A road sign indicated that he was entering an inhabited
region. He wondered how people would choose to settle in
such a repulsive place.

Just before the first house, his headlights lit on a red
cloth caught in branches, a dress that dangled as if the
trees had taken a woman and were now showing their
exploit.

He lowered his speed.

Wild grasses choked the yards. Teenagers looked at him,
weighing his worth in change. Instead of windows, broken
glass everywhere.

The smell of burnt meat wafted in the emptiness between
the houses. The walls were scrawled with slogans. The
happiest sight: two middle-aged men playing a board game,
sitting on paint cans.

Although there was no garbage, the roads were dirty.
The houses were lit by old lamps that hung like gouged
eyes from the beams.

What sense of beauty could somebody have growing up
here?

Although he was glad that he had seen this place, he felt
relief when the houses began to thin out.

Three dogs started to bark, running beside the wheels
of his car. This had happened many times before, but
something was different now, something in their bark.
While he always had the feeling that stray dogs were after
him, these were demanding what the inhabitants were too
embarrassed to say. They were begging him to stay, to share
their loneliness.

(Translated by Karen Van Dyck)

 

ASH PERSON by Hiva Pinahi

Dreams come from far away places
The stones, the birds and I take on new forms of life
Dreams have their own road
And we live far away these days, like dreams.

(Trans. by Maria Margaronis)

MY CHILDREN by Stathis Baroutsos

My children live in shacks beneath the filthy planks.
They cannot see the light that burns upon them; they
cannot breathe the broken window air.
My children live like insects, hooded blind in large
green leaves.
Their exit is not safe.
The large green arms do hold them dear beneath the
cage of wood the sun impales.
Within their nests they whisper answers only to
Chopin.
While burning suns attack with beams like knives,
their green embrace
Does hold them safer still beneath the barrack floors
where
They answer only to Chopin.
And so like this they measure time in nectar’s dark
until the waltz begins.

(Trans. by Karen Van Dyck)

THUS SPOKE THE STRANGER by Gazmend Kapllani

Medusas and coral
live far
from here.
Our Liliputian fate
guards
the last vestiges
of water
in the palm
of our hand.
No boat
passes by here
no white sail, just the slightest
Zephyr
caught in your hair
as you flee.
Medusas and coral
live far
from here. Our dream
bracelets
grasp
crumbling walls.
How many years since
someone knocked?
Our Liliputian fate
leaves room
for the last vestiges
of water.
At night
we dig a well
taking turns
– Muzë muzikë muzg –
we mutter
Always strangers, you say
the medusas and coral
you promised me,
the virgin water,
I’ll never see them.
Oh God, how many years
of bracelets grasping
crumbling walls?
How many years without a single knock?
The curtain closes like myth
That house
I do not belong to
that does not belong to me . . .

(Trans. by Karen Van Dyck)

 TO BE DONE WITH THE MATTER by Elena Polynegi

Not me, not my face
not what’s hiding
under my shirt.
I speak up though I know my voice
will drown in the icebox
where frozen animals
hang.

Who cares if it exists or not.

In the racket I raise my hands
to the heavens.
How beautiful the angels are
dead
with their sad eyes watching us.

(Trans. by Karen Van Dyck)

ARMED WITH TENDERNESS by Yannis Stiggas
For Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke

Feather-filled
her chest
her shadow
her deep hand,

because since childhood
she’s been playing he loves me,
he loves me not
with the feather-down of angels.

She doesn’t do it for the answer,

she does it to keep them near.

(Trans. by Stephanos Papadopoulos)

 

MY BROTHER PAUL, DIGGER OF THE SEINE by Yannis Stiggas
‘O you dig and I dig
and I dig inside myself towards you’
—Paul Celan

One day as he was digging,
he reached
his mother’s snowy mouth,
the long braids of his ancestors.
Another day he passed
the water’s roots

the stones

the flames

the trials he endured

left him
with a scorched cloud in his gaze,

a trouble with the wind

Jiskor
Kaddisch

a manic breathlessness

‘the depth’ he said
‘the depth to the point of exhaustion
is my language
and my country.’

And then he emerged into a place
full of trees and rivers and birds

and he was ecstatic

until a military command was heard:
‘Quick – fall into position,
report to the mess hall’

and the trees
and rivers
and birds disappeared.

Only the Seine remained
looking into his eyes.

(Trans. by Stephanos Papadopoulos)

 

SELF-WINDING by Yannis Stiggas

There are so many cogs
I’ll never find
how the Spring was bloodied
and so I spit
on my childhood green,
the dream’s last button.

Naked, things
happen faster.
By the time you begin
you can already smell the end.

Springtime is a black litany
kicking me to become

my entire thirst.

(let them say it’s about masquerade)

I don’t want to be called Yannis any more

I want two drams
of blind-white luck
even if it’s only

every Wednesday.

(Trans. by Stephanos Papadopoulos)

LET DOWN THE CHAIN by Glykeria Basdeki

To drag up
the bones

The ropes
spit
milk

Don’t even think
about it darling

No miracles
for you
here

Even if you’re
the master builder’s
wife

No one’s got
pull
in Bondageville

(Trans. by Karen Van Dyck)

JUST BEFORE YOU STOOD UP

Don’t say you didn’t want peacock wings,
a dress that swept across the waltz floor.
And if your tiara stole the show in a heartbeat
when the boldest of all stared you down
don’t say he was the conqueror;

he was on his knees.

(Trans. by Karen Van Dyck)



THE YELLOW TAXI

No, sir, you are confusing me with someone else
It was not I
in the yellow taxi
nor did I ever sit in the back seat with you
It was not snowing, I am certain about that
and no, flakes did not fall into my hair
On the contrary, I did not have hair
You never kissed me, otherwise I would have
    remembered it
And if you had kissed me, I was, at any rate, not there,
Nor did the driver even once turn back his head
Silently he crossed the lake until the end
and now and then the oar dipped
into the black waters all around

(Translated by A. E. Stallings)