Episode Four

Eleni Vakalo
Translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich

                                                                                                  I   weep   over  the   body                                                                                                of  a  sleeping   child  for                                                                                                I feel  I  will   betray  him                                                                                                before a new day dawns.                     Let my confession                Be written for the first time                With its true name                Confession                And not an attempt at poetry                Since that’s how it must be                I must hurt even more                 Once I could protect myself                Now I call it solitude  Related to this, I’ll add to my memories that I once had a dog.I thought there could be nothing better than to be a dog. Theway you hit them and they submit.It’s been a long time since then.                 As for what I’ve left                Today                For you to understand                It wasn’t from love                It was because                One can drown in the forest                And I only wanted                To find a way out                                                                                 (Pause for deep breath)                                                                                                     This poem                                                                                                Is my last revolutionary act                                                                                                Before I obey                                                                                                The advice of foreigners.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  January–February 1952

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Eleni Vakalo (1921-2001) was a Greek poet, art critic, and art historian. Vakalo published fourteen books of poetry, nine volumes of art history and art theory, had regular columns and produced a radio broadcast, both of art criticism. She received the State Poetry Prize in 1991, and the prestigious Academy of Athens Prize in 1997.

Karen Emmerich is an Assistant Professor at Princeton University. A translator of eleven Modern Greek books, her co-translation of Yannis Ritsos’s Diaries of Exile was awarded the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and her translation of Poems (1945-1971) by Miltos Sachtouris was a finalist for National Book Critics Circle award.

Before Lyricism includes six book-length poems written in the 1950s and 1960s. For Vakalo, these poems formed a larger, accretive whole. Before Lyricism allows us to see the complex web of intertextual relations that bind these poems together. Meanwhile, by bringing them into English, this volume will enrich not only our knowledge of this key period in Vakalo’s career, but English-language readers’ understanding of modern Greek poetry as a whole.

"Its celebration of mysteries should excite readers who know little of Vakalo's reputation"

"... one of the most important books of poetry ever to be written in the modern Greek language … anti-lyrical but dramatically human ... limits the imagination to the infinite dimensions of the real and excites logic as far as fantasy will take it."
— Nora Anagnostaki

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