Nasos Vayenas

Nasos Vayenas

NASOS VAYENAS was born in 1945 in Drama, in northern Greece. He studied literature at the universities of Athens, Rome, Essex and Cambridge – where he wrote The Poet and the Dancer, his Ph.D. thesis on George Seferis (published in Greek in 1979).

His first book of poems appeared in 1974 and since then he has published eleven more collections, a book of imaginative prose, as well as several critical works, among them The Language of Irony, which was awarded the Greek National Prize for Criticism in 1995.

His poetry has been translated into many languages and he is the recipient of major literary awards, including the Greek National Prize for Poetry (2005) for his collection Garland, the Attilio Bertolucci Poetry Prize (Italy, 2007), and the Branko Radičević Prize (Serbia, 2007).

Since 1992, he has been Professor of Literary Theory and Criticism at the University of Athens, where he now lives. His most recent book of essays, entitled Kinoumenos Stochos (Moving Target) was published in 2011; and later that year, a selection of poems on the subject of love, alongside paintings by Yiorgos Kordis. His Selected Poems in English appeared the previous year from Anvil.

Please visit this site for more translations of poems by Nasos Vayenas online.

 
THE ROSE MEADOW

Night in another layout. With crimson moons. That
     lie low. That lean against the earth.

And a strong smell of herbs. Or like an old – an age
     old – olive grove on fire.

Somewhere secret guitars jangle. And the dawn is
     always late.

The clothes I was wearing were ripped by an unseen
     rosebush.

trans. by
Paschalis Nikolaou and Richard Berengarten

 
HYMN (OR ODE PERHAPS)

to the moon. To most stars. To tenderest September.

To the large globules of night. That drip slowly on
     my head.

To the sea at Rethymno. To Arthur Rimbaud
     (‘Devotion’).

I gazed long hours into the blue mirror, the corroded
      face of eternity.

To the ruins of Philippoi.

To X. Unknown.

To Seferis’s line: ‘and then the smiles, so static,
     of the statues.’ To the splendid curve of a high
     note from the throat of a famous Italian
     soprano.

To Anna – and down I sank within your deep hair.
     Hotel Volturno, via degli Apuli 44.

I discover splendour at the memory of an
     impromptu speech delivered under a tree during
     a land allocation project by Nikolaos
     Tepetzikiotis, Prefect of Grevena.

To the line of clothes on the terrace.

To the women of the Old Masters (actual and
     imaginary).

To those in general lost, forsaken, betrayed. To
     certain unspecified assassins. To the beautiful
     student wearing mauve

opal earrings. (Luminous I ventured forth into the
     the night. Without sinking. Upon the face of the
     deep.)

To summer’s open windows. To your dark hands.
     To the violet

tint of your eyes when the sky is clouded. Or when a
     strong wind blows. Or when…

To death… And springtime is the letter that I write
     you.

To Bertolt Brecht.

trans. by
Richard Berengarten and Paschalis Nikolaou

 
GENESIS

In the beginning was the beginning
It arose tremulous out of nothing –
from a thick-matted layer of darkness
with red stains, a bit like
the topoi, say, of Oedipus.

And then the Sphinx came along,
with diamond-studded wings
(before, of course, the unleashing
of the waters) – plotting and scheming
everything to come.

trans. by
Richard Berengarten and Paschalis Nikolaou

 
THE RETURN

For Yannis Kondos

Exile is our earthly norm.
I know this when I watch the stars
closely. The flower in the vase
confirms our doom.

We’ll not miss lily, daffodil,
or any balm that seemed to scent
this affliction, this banishment,
once we’ve become imperishable.

With lamp, candle, torch and spark,
light wore us down. But we’ll relive
everything it deprived us of
when we breathe unending dark.

trans. by
Richard Berengarten and Paschalis Nikolaou

 
‘PROFANE LOVE’

About you there’s nothing of Giorgione’s
‘Sleeping Venus’. And that’s precisely what awes me.
Your eyes (even though closed) are waves that gnaw
across aeons at the wild crags inside me.

Your warm hand that lies on the counterpane
is a tree’s branch stretched over a cliff.
Your breast is of earth.
Your hair has no trace of heaven.

trans. by
Richard Berengarten and Paschalis Nikolaou

 

Nasos Vayenas

All selections taken from
NASOS VAYENAS, The Perfect Order: Selected Poems 1974-2010
(London: Anvil Press Poetry, 2010).

 
All translations on this post: © Paschalis Nikolaou & Richard Berengarten
Published with the permission of Paschalis Nikolaou