Welcome back to our celebration of National Poetry Month! We’re spotlighting contemporary Greek poets. This week, meet Yiannis Doukas.
National Poetry Month 2017: Celebrating Greek Poets
Welcome to our latest series, in honor of National Poetry Month, celebrating the work of Greek poets.
From Sappho to Ritsos, Greeks have always had a way with words. In celebration of National Poetry Month, we have collected some delightful and moving poems by contemporary Greek poets.We’ll spotlight a different writer each week. We hope you enjoy this series.
This week, we present a poem in Greek and English, by Poet Yiannis Doukas. “Epithaphios,” was inspired by the Greek crisis, and his belief that to move forward, things cannot be done as they always have.
“It focuses on what I understand as a cold and sobering realisation of ‘all changed, changed utterly, along with a sterile and futile nostalgic longing for what came before, a longing we urgently need to leave behind, come to terms with the current conditions, and craft a way forward. We are what ‘we burn and bury’ or, in other words, what we deserve to become depends on what we are willing to leave behind.”
Greek Poet Yiannis Doukas
Here’s his poem in the original Greek, and the English translation.
“...γιατί τ’ αγάλματα δεν είναι πια συντρίμμια,
είμαστε εμείς.” ~ Γιώργος Σεφέρης
Μετά δε ταύτα σβήσαμε τα φώτα,
έγειρες πάνω μου απαλά και είπες:
«θα ζήσουμε μπαλώνοντας τις τρύπες
της ιστορίας· τίποτα όπως πρώτα
δεν θα μπορέσει πια να ξαναγίνει».
Τουλάχιστον, εκείνο τ’ «όπως πρώτα»,
καθώς το καταργούν τα γεγονότα,
κι εμείς να τ’ αρνηθούμε. Τι θα μείνει
σ’ αυτήν τη γη, σε χρόνο ενεστώτα
απ’ όλο το αναμάσημα που λίγη
ανάσα έχει ακόμη και μας πνίγει,
την ώρα που του στρέφουμε τα νώτα;
Στεφάνους καταθέτουμε και κλαίμε,
μα είμαστε ό,τι θάβουμε, ό,τι καίμε.
EPITAPH by Yiannis Doukas
“… because the statues are no longer debris,
we are.” ~ George Seferis
We turned off the lights after all of this,
you gently leaned on me and said:
“We shall live stitching with a thread
the holes of history; whatever was before this
can never be restored”.
At least, that “before”,
as events negate it forevermore,
we should reject that too. What is to be stored
on this earth, in the present
out of all this rumination
whose remaining breath leads us to our obliteration
at the same time we turn our backs to what is everpresent?
We lay wreaths and weep,
but we are what we burn, we are what we bury deep.
Translated by Theodoros Chiotis and included in Futures: Poetry of the Greek Crisis (Penned in the Margins, 2015)
Meet Yiannis Doukas
Born and raised in Athens, Yiannis Doukas now calls Galway, Ireland home. He studied Classics at the University of Athens and Digital Humanities at King’s College London. He’s currently working on a PhD at NUI Galway.
During his teenage years, he made his first attempts at writing. He said he was drawn to poetry as a means to express himself, “the ingredients” of his identity: his life experience, the time and place he lives, his language, and his connection with prior literary tradition. He also found it a means to process and ponder the state of the world today.
“And in a language which suggests, implies and conceals things, instead of crying them out loud, and by using the strict form of rhyme and rhythm as a “music” to put the world in order.”
Now in his 30s, he’s a published writer. A collection of short stories, The World as I Came and Found it (Kedros) was published in 2001. He’s published two award-winning books of poetry. Inner Borders (Polis, 2011) earned the Diavazo journal Debut Poetry Collection Award. The Stendhal Syndrome (Polis, 2013) won the G. Athanas Award of the Academy of Athens. His work has also been included in anthologies of contemporary Greek poetry. Some of his poems have been translated into English, French, Serbian and Polish.
Yiannis has also published book reviews and translations in Greek newspapers and literary magazines. Additionally, he’s composed lyrics for two songs set to music by acclaimed Greek composer, Thanos Mikroutsikos. They’re featured on his latest album, “Stin Omihli ton Kairon”.