Saturday, May 28, 2005

Penelope speaks for herself via Atwood

I'm so hyped by this. Due out in October 2005, Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad tells the myth of Penelope and Odysseus.

About the book [from the Canadian Random House site]:

The story of Penelope — as told by herself.

In The Odyssey, Penelope — daughter of King Icarius of Sparta, and the cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy — is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife. Atwood’s dazzling retelling of the old myth is as haunting as it is wise and compassionate, as disturbing as it is entertaining. With incomparable wit and verve, she gives the story of Penelope new life and reality.

From Atwood's introduction to the book:

Homer’s Odyssey is not the only version of the story. Mythic material was originally oral, and also local—a myth would be told one way in one place and quite differently in another. I have drawn on material other than The Odyssey, especially for the details of Penelope’s parentage, her early life and marriage, and the scandalous rumours circulating about her.

I’ve chosen to give the telling of the story to Penelope and to her twelve hanged maids. The Maids form a chanting and singing Chorus which focuses on two questions that must pose themselves after any close reading of The Odyssey: what led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to? The story as told in The Odyssey doesn’t hold water: there are too many inconsistencies. I’ve always been haunted by the hanged maids; and, in The Penelopiad, so is Penelope herself.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Eleni Gage and "North of Ithaka"

Douglas Anders aka The Hellenophile encourages us to read North of Ithaka by Eleni Gage, daughter of Nicholas Gage who wrote Eleni.

Read about it here.

Miltos Sahtouris (1919-2005) -- Greek surrealist poet

Mark Dragoumis has written an article for the Athens News on surrealist poet Μίλτος Σαχτούρης -- Miltos Sahtouris (or Sachtouris) who died earlier this year.

Mark begins:

MILTOS SACHTOURIS (1919-2005), a Greek surrealist poet obsessed with the darker side of life (and death), passed away on March 17 at the ripe old age of 86. In his four-line depiction of his own end entitled The Poet (translated by David Connolly) he wrote:

When they find me on the cross of my death
the sky around will have reddened far beyond
there'll be a suspicion of sea
and, from above, in a now terrifying darkness
a white bird will recite my songs.

Further reading:
1. Information at Poetry International
2. Translations of this poetry

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Maria Polydouri -- 75 years since her death

I just checked out the Vivliothiki literary supplement that comes with Greek daily Eletherotypia on a Friday and discover that it is 75 years since the death of poet Maria Polydouri. And so, they've got a whole lot of articles on her and her work.

* Lived 1902-1930 (Died of some illness...I should look this up.) ADDITION: She had tuberculosis, but according to this site, "she killed herself, on the 30th of April 1930, by taking lethal morphine injections."

* Two poetry collections: 1) Οι τρίλλιες που σβήνουν, 1928, and 2) Ηχώ στο χάος, 1929; plus some other odd stuff along the way.

Um, how to translate those titles? I'll try. I looked up "τρίλλιες" in my MATZENTA Greek-English dictionary and it's got "τρίλλιον", which means birthroot, some plant? I hate that dictionary. Anyway, let me check my Babiniotis. So: "τρίλια" is trill. Oh, a bird cry? The Trills That Die (?).

Ok the next one is easy. Sound in Chaos or maybe that is Echo in Chaos. (?)

What some Greek female poets said about Polydouri (in the supplement, which I briefly scanned):

"Maria Polydouri covers my thoughts with a creative melancholy"
-- Μαριγώ Αλεξοπούλου -- Marigo Alexopoulou

"I came across Polydouri in a poetry anthology, which was given to me in the fifth grade. …her poems stood out amongst the rest, not just because I read them over and over again, but because I wanted to read them out loud, so that they could be heard"
-- Αλεξάνδρα Πλαστήρα -- Alexandra Plastira

"Maria Polydouri is a myth"
-- Αντεια Φραντζή -- Andia Frantzi

Maria Polydouri wrote intense erotic poetry and fell in love with (and had a brief affair with, but I think he rejected her or didn't want to marry her, so she obsessed about him) Kostas Karyotakis, one of Greece's premiere contemporary poets. The following poem is, I think, about him. He committed suicide in Preveza, Greece in 1928.


Αυτόν τον καταδίωκε ένα πνεύμα
στις σκοτεινές εκτάσεις της ζωής του.
Οι ασχολίες του, οι χαρές του, σ’ ένα νεύμα
προσχήματα γινόνταν της ορμής του.

Τα ωραία βιβλία, η σκέψη, ένα ορμητήριο
λίγες στιγμές· βίαιος στον έρωτά του.
Ύστερα γέμιζε η όψη του μυστήριο
και τίποτε δεν ταίριαζε κοντά του.

Ένας περίεργος ξένος επλανιόταν
αναμεσόμας, μ’ όψη αλλοιωμένη.
Την υποψία μας δε μας την αρνιόταν
πως κάτι φοβερό τον περιμένει.

Ήταν ωραίος παράξενα, σαν κείνους
που ο Θάνατος τούς έχει ξεχωρίσει.
Δινόταν στους φριχτότερους κινδύνους
σαν κάτι να τον είχε εξασφαλίσει.

Ένα πρωί, σε μια κάρυνη θήκη
τον βρήκαμε νεκρό μ’ ένα σημάδι
στον κρόταφο. Ήταν όλος σα μια νίκη,
σα φως που ρίχνει γύρω του σκοτάδι.

Είχε μια τέτοια απλότη και γαλήνη,
μια γελαστή μορφή ζωντανεμένη!
Όλος μια ευχαριστία σα νάχε γίνει.
Κ’ η αιτία του κακού σημαδεμένη.

To a young man who committed suicide

By Maria Polydouri [translator unknown]

A spirit kept pursuing him
in the dark expanses of his life.
His occupations, his joys at a nod
became pretexts of his vital drive.

His lovely books, thought, a momentary haunt.
His love a violent sight.
Later his face filled with mystery
and nothing around him was right.

A curious stranger, he wandered among us
in altered mien and grim.
He did not gainsay our suspicion
that something frightful awaited him.

He was strangely handsome, like those
whom death had singled out.
He yielded to the direst dangers
as if something guarded him throughout.

One morning, in a walnut casket we
found him dead with a mark on the temple.
All of him was like a victory,
like light casting around him in the dark.

He had such simplicity and serenity,
a smiling form living again!
As if all of him had become a Eucharist
and the cause had marked him in vain.