“Listening to the foreign language I was deeply speaking our own, and came to understand how difficult it is to name things truly…” says the Greek poet, Eleni Vakalo (1921-2001). Her translator, Karen Emmerich, describes discovering manuscripts of her poems in the library at Princeton, when she was still learning Greek; the first thing she experienced was the shape and pattern and colour on the page. Reading these long poems is entering into a world where meanings move, the borders between land and sea, people and nature are always shifting. Here are some fragments to give you a taste:
The space between is beautiful, and then suddenly very uncomfortable underneath. and as Emmerich saw, the space around the words are crucial, as these poems run over several pages…
Vakalo is both absolutely rooted in the landscape around her, experienced with all the senses in extraordinary ways, and absolutely extending beyond it. Born in Istanbul, studying art history in the Sorbonne, and settling in Athens, she had been reaching across linguistic and cultural divides all her life.
Beyond Lyricism, a collection of six of her book-length poems in English, is published by Ugly Duckling Presse. As the days get darker, journey with it to the sea, the trees, and poems that shine with quiet desire.