Saturday, October 16, 2010

"Thirty Years in the Rain”, Sparrow Moon and on Why Taygetos Is Not a Mountain

“Thirty Years in the Rain” is the title of a poem by Nikiforos Vrettakos and the title of a poetry volume – a selection of Vrettakos’ poems published by Sommerset Hall Press (Boston, MA) in the translation of Robert Zaller and Lili Bitta. Several pages from this book are available at  google books.

The dimensions of Nikiforos Vrettakos’ poetry are those of a poetic cosmogony: an inventory of the universe, of the divine presence and of chimerical states of mind:

"Poised like an eagle,
I stand above the world
- one claw in the snow,
the other in the clouds –
immovable, white."
                - from An Eagle

The poetry of Vrettakos is steeped in a grandiose and Romantic poetic discourse found at the crossroads of self & universe tempered by a realist vein, that brings, in an icy sheen, the metaphors back inside the ‘eye’s cold quarantine”:

"“I have nothing to give you” you said. “ Nothing.
My hands are empty as a sieve.”
You could hardly bear the weight. You could  hardly
plant your step.
            Your hands,
laden with stones
quarried from the sun."
                - from  II The Perforated Hands
An intriguing theme that pervades Vrettakos’ poetry is blossoming; its poetic extension yields a plethora of associations.
Blossoming is a difficult poetic theme in my opinion. Here is how Vrettakos deals with it:

"The apple tree sows its blossoms
in the wind: you fetch
rainwater in your apron
light from the wheatstalks

a moon of sparrows."
                   - from Without You

And the conclusion of this post? “Taygetos isn't a mountain.

Taygetos, the mountain in Sparta, in whose proximity Vrettakos was born, is celebrated in his poems:

“                First off
Taygetos wasn’t a mountain.
            It was the first poem
I read as I opened my eyes,
my first friend, haloed with light.”
              - from Evening Confessions.


Blasphemous Aesthete said...

The lines hold a mystic appeal, I like the opening verse, and the last one too, too bad that I cannot read the whole poems.

Conrad DiDiodato said...


I, too, see the mysticism in Vrettakos' verses. The verses from "An Eagle" are clean, spare and lyrically strong (reminiscent of Tennyson's "Eagle")

I particularly love the haiku-like qualities of " you fetchrainwater in your apronlight from the wheatstalks
a moon of sparrows."

Thanks for this introduction to the poetry of Nikiforos Vrettakos.

Irina said...

Thank you both...there are a couple of poems in the google books link, including the whole of "An Eagle" in the preface.

I invite you to my next post, still on Greek poetry, but with a plot to me, for sure, and 100% enchanting...

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