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The Brazen Plagiarist: Selected Poems

Overview

Kiki Dimoula’s poetry—the most praised and prized in contemporary Greek literature—is a paradox, both mysteriously intricate and widely popular. Her magic lens defamiliarizes all that is familiar, compressing distances between far-flung realms, conflating concrete and abstract, literal and metaphorical, physical and metaphysical.  Exacting and oracular at once, Dimoula superimposes absurdity on rationality, caustic irony on dark melancholy.

This first English translation of...

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Overview

Kiki Dimoula’s poetry—the most praised and prized in contemporary Greek literature—is a paradox, both mysteriously intricate and widely popular. Her magic lens defamiliarizes all that is familiar, compressing distances between far-flung realms, conflating concrete and abstract, literal and metaphorical, physical and metaphysical.  Exacting and oracular at once, Dimoula superimposes absurdity on rationality, caustic irony on dark melancholy.

This first English translation of a wide selection of poems from across Dimoula’s oeuvre brings together some of her most beguiling, arresting, and moving work. The demands on her translators are considerable. Dimoula plays with the Greek language, melds its levels of diction, challenges its grammar and syntax, and bends its words, by twisting their very shape and meaning. Cecile Inglessis Margellos and Rika Lesser, Dimoula’s award-winning translators, have re-created her style’s uncanny effect of refraction: when plunged into the water of her poetry, all these bent words suddenly and astonishingly appear perfectly straight.

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Editorial Reviews

National Greek Prize - the 2014 Greek National Translation Prize
Winner of the 2014 Greek National Translation Prize.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Kiki Dimoula is a full member of the Academy of Athens, one of three women ever to be inducted. Cecile Inglessis Margellos is a translator from French, English, and ancient Greek, a scholar, and a literary critic. Rika Lesser, twice the recipient of translation prizes from the Swedish Academy, is the author of four books of poems and seven books of poetry in translation.

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Read an Excerpt

The Brazen Plagiarist

Selected Poems
By KIKI DIMOULA

YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS

Copyright © 2012 Yale University
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-300-14139-9


Chapter One

    EREBUS (1956)


    MELANCHOLY


    In the sky heavy darkness walks a tightrope.
    And as the window takes me into its embrace,
    with one of my hands
    into the room I drag
    the street's inconceivable barrenness,
    while with the other one I grab
    a handful of cloudmist
    and with it seed my soul.


    BRITISH MUSEUM

    THE ELGIN MARBLES

    In the chill of the Museum room
    before my eyes: stolen, fair
    sole Caryatid.
    Her dark sweet gaze
    persistently fixed
    on Dionysos' robust body
    (sculpted in a posture of lust)
    just two steps away.
    His own gaze has fallen
    on the girl's strapping waist.
    An everlasting idyll
    unites them, I suspect.
    And so, in the evening, when the room empties
    out the many, noisy visitors,
    I imagine Dionysos
    carefully rising from his stand
    arousing no suspicion among
    neighboring statues and sculpted stones,
    vibrantly slithering
    to undo the Caryatid's chastity
    with wine and with caresses.

    Maybe I'm wrong.
    Some other tie may bind them
    more strongly, more woefully:
    On wintery evenings
    and splendid August nights
    I see them
    stepping down from their pedestals,
    discarding their formal daytime miens,
    and with nostalgia's sighs and tears
    erecting passionately in memory
    Parthenons and Erechtheions they've lost.


    IN ABSENTIA (1958)


    UTOPIAS


    On my way
    into work, 7:30 A.m.
    I encounter March—
    cheerful,
    hinting broadly
    about spring and so forth.

    I postpone my essential nature,
    break my contract
    with winter,
    and strew myself as humus over the ground.
    I become a small plot of earth,
    lying outstretched
    facing
    a wholly sympathetic
    universe.
    I plant myself with flowers,
    blossom with feelings,
    and feel very well
    within my boundless destination
    and position.

    "Spring Prohibited!"
    suddenly a sign—a cloud—
    threatens. At once
    a downpour starts speaking
    accusing spring

    and accusing me,
    a black-browed wind
    seizes my flowers
    seizes my emotions
    and forces me to the Office.

    A serious transgression, then
    —and on her way in—
    by a woman of a certain age,
    who has family obligations
    and many years of service
    to the public
    and to winter.


    TRANSFER

    Night quietly buries
    in its tomb of silence
    today's body,
    mother of my works.

    And I, around myself,
    I gather orphans and minors,
    these works of mine,
    getting them ready
    for their unknown stepmother:
    the day to come.


    INCOMPATIBLES

    All my poems about spring
    remain incomplete.

    Spring is always in a hurry,
    my mood always long delayed.

    That's why I'm compelled
    to complete
    almost every poem I write about spring
    with an autumn season.


    ROMANTIC DISAGREEMENT

    Of course I am
    against disturbing the moon.
    For many reasons.
    Not only is it an unseemly exaggeration
    —personally I've long avoided exaggerating
    because of exhaustion—
    but it is also improper.
    So far, the moon's relations with the earth
    have been
    highly formal.
    Discreet from its enchanting distance,
    it offered perfect solutions
    to mankind's musing.
    And, above all,
    every so often,
    it silver-plates
    this worn-out earth for free.


    ON THE TRACK (1963)


    TWO SHORT POEMS
    FOR A RIDDLE AND A STREET

    I


    My desires were never
    told about you.
    You were never predicted
    by my dreams.
    My premonitions
    haven't met you.
    Nor has my imagination.
        And yet
    for an indeterminate moment
    I determine that you're inside me:
    a feeling already ready.

    II

    So vast was Stadiou Street
    with room enough
    for succulent noon,
    your virility,
    and me
    walking beside you
    one whole sadness
    apart.


    BIOGRAPHICAL PICTURE

    To my mother

    The house
    looks at the public road
    and the sea
    by the logic of its four windows,
    smiling stereotypically
    with a wide orange
    balcony.

    On this balcony
    on this smile
    each and every afternoon, my mother
    exposes
    her indecipherable face.

    Time wrote it down
    with no excitement
    night after night
    in pain's fluid language
    filling
    page after page of decay.
    And without one mistake of laughter.

    She sits
    on the edge of the chair
    not to burden the afternoon
    with the full weight of her bedridden heart,
    just to exist
    stopped in the midst of her life
    by some dead calm of luck,
    just to bear
    the spasm of her surprise:

    "Are there seas,
    nervous ships
    that push solutions
    toward unhindrance?
    And winds that uproot what is stagnant?
    And these colors, easy to absorb,
    which the alcoholic afternoon imbibes—
    do they exist?" She didn't know.
    Her life didn't know.

    Now
    she risks a strange movement:
    she thrusts her body slightly forward,
    and then pulls it back—
    heavy rowing of memory—
    her tears go shore by shore.

    Little by little
    the afternoon, her face and the balcony
    are undermined by twilight.
    Their shape grows insane.

    They themselves get shut up in dusk
    our eyes can no longer enter.
    Night is falling.


    Sykia, Summer 1961


    EASTER, TOWARD SOUNION

    The sea, unperturbed and untwitching
    as if the land clutches it tightly
    by the edges, pulls and stretches.
    At the edge of the cliff
    propping up the view,
    vertigo smells sweet
    suicides tumble ...

    To the left, the season,
    in an irrepressible descent of holy color.
    And right there, a gloomy shrine
    encloses a Christ, apparently unrisen.
    For on him a plastic wreath
    still forgotten
    prolongs the passion of the Cross.
    Concerning the Sabbath that was past,
    Magdalene, Salome, and the spices

    there's no clue.
    Coincidence:
    from my heart, too, the stone
    was not rolled away:
    for it was very great.



    THE LITTLE OF THE WORLD (1971)


    I WENT THROUGH


    Because these wings are no longer wings to fly.
    —T. S. Eliot

    I take a walk and night falls.
    I make a decision and night falls.
    No, I'm not sad.

    I've been curious and studious.
    I know things. Something about everything.
    The names of flowers when they fade,
    and when words grow green and when we grow cold.
    How readily the lock of feelings unlocks
    with any of oblivion's keys.
    No, I'm not sad.

    I went through days of rain,
    surging behind
    the liquid barbed wire
    patiently and discreetly,
    like pain in the trees
    when the last leaf leaves them,
    and like fear in the brave.
    No, I'm not sad.

    I went through gardens, stood at fountains,
    saw many statuettes laughing
    at invisible causes of joy.
    And boastful little Cupids.

    Their stretched bows rose as
    half-moons in my nights, and I was lost in reveries.
    I dreamed many a lovely dream
    and went on daydreaming.
    No, I'm not sad.

    I walked around a lot in feelings,
    mine and those of others,
    and there was always space between them
    for wide time to pass.
    I went by post offices and went by again.
    I wrote letters and wrote again
    and tirelessly prayed to the god of answers.
    I received brief postcards:
    a cordial farewell from Patras
    and some regards
    from the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
    No, I'm not sad about the day's leaning.

    I talked a lot. To people,
    to lampposts, to photographs.
    And a great deal to chains.
    I learned how to read palms,
    how to lose hands.
    No, I'm not sad.

    I've even traveled.
    I went this way, and I went that way ...
    Everywhere, the world was ready to get old.

    I lost this way, and I lost that way.
    Lost something of my attentiveness
    and of my inattentiveness.
    I also went to the sea.
    I was owed some breadth. Let's say I got it.
    I feared loneliness
    and I imagined people.
    I saw them drop
    from the hand of some tranquil dust
    that moved through a sunbeam.
    And others from the tinkling of a tiny bell.
    I resounded in the chiming
    of orthodox wilderness.
    No, I'm not sad.

    I also caught fire and was slowly consumed.
    I shared the moons' experience.
    Their waning, over seas and eyes,
    into the dark, has sharpened me.
    No, I'm not sad.

    As much as I could I resisted this river
    at high water, not to be carried off.
    And as much as possible I imagined water
    in dry riverbeds
    and went adrift.

    No, I'm not sad.
    The night falls right on time.


    THE PLURAL

    Love:
    noun, substantive,
    extremely substantive,
    singular in number;
    gender not feminine, not masculine,
    gender defenseless.
    Plural the number
    of defenseless loves.

    Fear:
    substantive,
    singular to start with
    plural afterward:
    fears.
    Fears of
    everything from now on.

    Memory:
    noun, proper name for sorrows,
    singular in number,
    singular only,
    and indeclinable.
    Memory, memory, memory.

    Night:
    substantive,
    gender feminine,
    number singular.
    Plural in number
    the nights.
    The nights from now on.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Brazen Plagiarist by KIKI DIMOULA Copyright © 2012 by Yale University. Excerpted by permission of YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Thoughts of an Awkward Immigrant to a Foreign Language, by Kiki Dimoula....................xi
The Omnipotence of Things, by Cecile Inglessis Margellos....................xv
The Somatics of Semantics: The Body of the Work, by Rika Lesser....................xxxvii
Erebus (1956)....................5
In Absentia (1958)....................13
On the Track (1963)....................25
The Little of the World (1971)....................37
My Last Body (1981)....................89
Hail Never (1988)....................109
Oblivion's Adolescence (1994)....................147
A Moment of Two (1998)....................173
Sound of Distancings (2001)....................195
Greenhouse Grass (2005)....................217
We've moved Next Door (2007)....................245
The Finder's Reward (2010)....................279
Chronology, by Cecile Inglessis Margellos....................311
Notes....................329
Works by Kiki Dimoula....................333
Acknowledgments....................337
Author Information....................339
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