Just the tambourine—no clarinet, no plane tree—exploding somewhere deep, and the afternoons blown to smithereens.
Famished, gleaming hawk, drawing circles above the cockerel, shocking him with his beak, breaking open his skull and the hens at his side, pecking up flint to armor his seed.
Way up high, swallows guzzling flies, scything the air back and forth, but the blue is untouched, trumpeting the heavens till dusk.
Let's put it behind us then. Memories to the gorse, their fabrics to the apartment blocks. The dreams of hinterlanders, traces of Pelasgians—Cretans—Turks—Franks—Slavs—English—Americans, what quilts, my God, for every kind of bed, what tapestries; the drowsy eye trips up there before slipping like a coalminer into the galleries of sleep. Suddenly nose meets prow, you and a white boat passing between your eyes, parting your blood in two.
Deep within its keel the drums of the Algerians, and deeper still the anchor that swells inside your heart.
Copyright © 2019 Michális Ganás
From A Greek Ballad: Selected Poems of Michális Ganás,
translated from the Greek by David Connolly and Joshua Barley.
Published by Yale University Press in September 2019
in the Margellos World Republic of Letters series.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Joshua Barley is a translator of Greek literature and a writer, based in Athens. Aside from Ganás, he has recently translated Ilias Venezis’ Serenity and Makis Tsitas’ God is my Witness for Aiora Press.
David Connolly is an award-winning translator and former professor of translation studies at the Aristotle University of Thessaloníki.
This is the first English-language collection of work by the renowned Greek poet Michális Ganás. Originally from a remote village on the northwest border of Greece, Ganás witnessed the Greek Civil War as a young child, and was taken into enforced exile in Eastern Europe with his family. Weaving together subtle references to the events and places that have defined his life’s story, Ganás’s terse and technically accomplished poems are a combination of folklore, autobiography, and recent history. Whether describing the mountains of his youth or the difficulties of acclimation in Athens of the 1960s and 1970s, Ganás’s writing is infused with striking and original imagery inspired by love, memory, and loss.
“Sad yet ebullient poems . . . a comprehensive introduction to the poet’s work, and a snapshot of the political upheaval he experienced . . . Ganás skillfully melds loss with love . . . a rich, rare view of a life spent in, or hoping to return, to Greece.”