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« The Poetry of Odysseas Elytis | Main | Race Baiting, White Supremacy and the American Immigrant Experience »

12 January 2008




In 1985 when I came to Greece, I remember this little song that seemed so quaint to me and it became my favorite Greek song.

Einay Gata
Einay Gata
O Kontos xoris Patata (or something like that)

or the one about the shephered who

"Vaso Givancy sto podardia mo"
epadi ole ti mera, vaso to tsapon (?)
He He He (shepheard song).

Oh the simple Greece in the mid 1980s...



I think I prefer "simple things", that bypass the intellect and transcend nationality/ethnicity. I really like all the poems you've linked to - thanks for the links, especially those with the Greek alongside the English.



Ritsos is another giant. One of my favourite Ritsos poems is Woman. I cannot find the English translation anywhere right now but it comes highly recommended. The Late into the Night collection is also very good.



I know you love poetry and I was hoping some of this would speak to your inner self as well. Wasn't it you that once remarked about being attracted to poems that expressed similar experiences that you shared with the author? Perhaps that might be why some of the patriotic poems might not appeal to you.

Elytis and Ritsos reflect their generation. A generation that lived through the trauma of war, occupation and civil war. Ritsos especially lived a life that resembled a Greek tragedy. Their experiences pervades their poetry. They were human beings who wrote about things we all have some understanding of, such as love and beauty. They also wrote about things that we have difficulty relating to since we may not have shared those same experiences. As Greeks, their work reflects the torment and pride inflicted by their Greekness. A Greekness that even Greeks themselves have trouble processing at times.


I don't share your more intimate knowledge of Ritsos or Elytis. Something I hope to rectify now that I have had a chance to read and hear them. I've decided to take the advice you gave me long ago and read them in their original, especially after listening to the readings of their work. Listening and reading their words in Greek was inspirational. That said I will have a good English translation at my side. Thanks for the information.


Not a problem. I also need a Greek dictionary. I have discovered that Cavafy is very different in Greek than English. I always thought he was easily translatable but the English reader misses the irony as Cavafy changes between Greek idioms.


Cavafy is definitely someone I want to learn more about. I searching for a good book about him. Any suggestions?


I have not read a Cavafy biography but documents here and there. Check the Cavafy website or send them an email, they are very helpful, particularly Lambropoulos. Apologies I cannot be of much assistance. Have you seen the movie by the same Director responsible for El Greco? Very good.

However, I am not sure a Cavafy biography will tell you much. He was very secretive and spent a lot of time in his modest home in Alexandria. There are some excellent books on Alexandria or speak to Alexandrian Greeks themselves. The Alexandrian environment seems as interesting as Cavafy. How he came to view the world in the way that he did has probably as much to do with the history and culture of Alexandria as it did with Cavafy himself. I do not believe he would have written the same poetry if he lived in Athens. I was lucky enough that my parents have several family friends from Alexandria and the Alexandrian Greek club is not far from my home in Sydney in the suburb of you guessed it, Alexandria. By this way I learnt about Alexandria by listening and talking to these people and comparing them to other Greeks.

For me Cavafy is special because his poetry changed the way I interpreted certain things at a very young age. He made certain things seem possible that did not seem possible before. He also showed me the transformative potential of Art; particularly poetry, and helped me change the macho attitude I had towards these pursuits.


Perhaps the Alexandrians like those Greeks from Constantinople and Smyrna, were more cosmopolitan and exposed to wide ranging influences.

I think I know what you mean about the "transformative power" of art. Especially the art that speaks to us in a personal way because the artist touches something in our soul. I have been listening to the readings of Elytis peotry from Axion Esti and Ritsos from Romiosini and I must admit they have really touched me in a way I can't explain on an emotional level.

Coincidentally, my Uncle Elia just sent me a book about Cavafy by Robert Liddell that I look forward to reading. I'll let you know if it is worthwhile.


18 Lianotragoudia apo tin Pikri Patridia by Ritsos and Theodorakis is also brilliant.

This is Ritsos poem from his last collection before he died.


Those who are left await their turn.
Mihalis gone, Stratis gone, Meletis,
Sotiris gone at 40. The mule-drivers
come down from the villages, their carts
loaded up with watermelons. Right in the street,
they plop them on the scales and weigh them.
"Poor crop," they say-and prices go up.
And old Stathis sits on his porch, oblivious,
gazing off at the ocean and chuckling to himself.
All this measuring and comparing-what's the use?
As if you could ever know the weight of things.
"Fresh watermelons," they shout, "ready for the knife!"
The mules doze in the heat, swishing their tails.

He is a genius.


Thanks. Hermes. Superb. I am actively looking for a collection of his works including his newly discovered poems.

Afshin Babazadeh

Ritsos was first translated back in the early seventies into Persian. But his poetry touched modern persian peory in a quiet way



I am pleasantly surprised to hear that Ritsos has had such a far ranging impact. I would be interested to learn more about it.

Manolis Aligizakis

Stavros can find a beautiful book, Cavafy's latest translation by Manolis a Greek-Canadian writer at
I admire and congratulate the wish of some readers for good poetry and Cavafy is one of the best in the world.


Curtz W Jackson

Greetings from Long Island,N.Y.

Sorry-having keypad problems-short note.

Ritsos' poem on video:



Thanks Curtz,

If you like Ritsos, try Kavafy.

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Searching for Ithaka

  • Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you're destined for. But don't hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years, so you're old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you've gained on the way, not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you wouldn't have set out. She has nothing left to give you now. And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you. Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. C. P. Cavafy


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