Sotirios Pastakas was born in 1954 in Larissa, where he returned in 2012. He studied medicine in Rome and Psychiatry at Athens (Mental State Psychiatric Clinic). For thirty years he worked as a Psychiatrist in Athens. He has published sixteen collections of poetry, a theatrical monologue, a book of essays and translations of Italian poets. In 2001 he co-founded the World Poetry Academy in the city of Verona, and in September of the same year received a scholarship from Hawthodern Castle, International Retreat for writers, near Edinburgh. He has read poems in various International Poetic Festival (Sarajevo 2006 and 2011, San Francisco 2007, Rome 2010, Izmir 2012, Cairo 2013, Istanbul 2014, etc.) is a member of the Writers Society from 1994 and has set up various print and electronic journals. Beyond being an editor he also is a radio producer and teacher in experiential writing. He has been translated into twelve languages and the “Trilogy” book (ed. Presence, 2012) was released in the US in 2015, entitled “Food Line”, translated by Jack Hirschman and Angelos Sakis. His first book of short stories “Dr Ψ and his patients,” was released in 2015 by publishing Ink. In December 2015 he was awarded the Annibale Ruccello Award for Poetry in the Third Festival of Teatro Stabia. On February 5, 2016 was declared the winner in the competition Ritratti di Poesia.140 (poesia tweet), the Fondazione Roma. In the spring of 2016 he released a personal anthology of poems (1986-2016) in Italian “corpo a corpo” from Multimedia publications “Casa della Poesia”, that won the NordSud International Prize for Poetry/Pescarabbruzzo foundation in 2016.
All poems below from SOTÍRIOS PASTÁKAS’ book
Learning to Breathe … in Three Movements
Melani publications, Athens, 2006
Translated from Greek
© Yannis Goumas
The National Road from Corinth to Patras
after a certain point leads
to an unknown landscape. The traveller
looks up amazed, ignoring
the distance covered so far,
as happens when with the corner of the eye
we observe someone familiar
as alien and a total stranger.
For it to lead us afterwards to the soul’s
actual landscape, you cease
knowing the way, if you are coming
or going, if you are welcomed or
if you are kissing goodbye to a part of your life.
Alone at last on the quay,
you look at the sea which you’d think
swells, rolls and ripples just for you,
until the waves surge, departure’s
blue becoming once again
blue of death.
Bluer the sea after the afternoon
nap. I went to bed in flowery May
and woke up in autumn. Empty beach,
solemn silence. Masses of languor rise
around me, mountains and rocks and ruined
buildings calmly budding and growing.
Lost time is life’s sediment, it’ll be returned
to me with interest and dividends,
in Symi yet again, some other summer.
*An island in the Dodecanese.
Poetry hasn’t changed address: Rome.
Piazza Esedra, Feltrinelli bookshop.
Covers change, printing changes,
and we’re always in love. I had
thought of all this: roads leading
to the square’s warm embrace,
in summer, in July, the Mediterranean
pine trees bursting to the point of shedding
tiny exclamation marks across our path, and lasting
what I left unfinished. Just a visitor
now, in a city where I lived for almost ten years,
whichever book I lay my hands on
tactfully hints at parallel readings
of that time, refers to titles
and authors, to the incoherent puzzle
of my youthful bookcase. Therefore,
this book I just bought,
going with eyes shut
from one embrace to another, allow me to hold it
as I used to hold books,
arms crossed on my chest, the height of my soul.
As he walked down Academy Street, he didn’t feel
the yellow acacia floret that came
and settled in his hair. He didn’t realize
that people stepped aside for him to pass,
his way clear – green, too,
the next pedestrian light. He was unaware
of a host of erotic glances,
of smiles never returned, of faces
warmly beckoning with optimism,
Confidence, and kindness. Only when
he entered the lift did he blush with shame,
as he saw in the mirror the yellow floret
caught on his tie; and he smiled,
he, Tuesday’s honoured guest,
invested with the order of everydayness.
Sprays spray, spray,
grass grows fresh and soft
without memories. Before being a drop,
water traces a multicoloured curve.
Water that multiplies
and fertilizes all: makes them
balmy. “In May, roses replace
the Virgin Mary”. And he says: “Don’t
worry, jasmine intervenes on our behalf
in the sky”. Thus chatting,
the childless couple wanders through
the flowery gardens.
Dusk approaches to the rhythmic stride
of the teenager, who was left
alone under the basketball’s open net.
The summer town’s routine
gathers its voices a little beyond
and he glows with sweat
as he officiates with the chance equipment
provided by time: an orange ball,
a metal ring. Conceal
your glances, you passersby.
It’s the body that loves itself
in an exclusive and passionate way.
THE AFTERNOON’S EXAGGERATION
I grew up in patience and patience
dulled my sight. An oasis
now flourishes in the middle of the room.
Wild vegetation covers
the furniture’s familiar perspective. Countless
plants are climbing the walls.
They’ll perish, for sure, without leaving a trace,
if I don’t complete my transformation
by becoming the desert’s humble reptile,
a cactus that presupposes vision.
SEPTEMBER IN THE CAPITAL
Only love grants sleep in the centre
of Athens. The unsavoury sounds are decimated
on the bed’s framework. Whichever survive
crawl to the balcony and fall.
It’s the time when the hotel’s good god
exhales: the marble elf*
travels to noontime‘s warmth, the folds
of the curtain harden, and a man
sleeping is all people sleeping.
Two people sleeping: Maria and George.
*Refers to the Acropolis
ONE OF THE YEAR’S SEASONS: SUMMER
You can always hear the sea
when cars aren’t driving by –
the playful, joyful waves.
Between two winters, you recover
your actual age:
you are no longer young, but nor too old.
Between two weeks, Sunday
opens its beach, curtain
with a greedy slot machine. Feed
your Sunday well, with leadless
petrol and leaden smelt.
Thousands die on the roads and, who knows,
as you open and close your eyes
lying nonchalant on the sand,
next to you may catapult,
covered in blood, the dreamed body.
After lunch comes the afternoon,
the outcome of transition and natural
process, as the tent’s shadow
shifts and the sun
leaves the table,
the wicker chairs, the plates,
and the diffuse pillow talk.
Mysteriously a shadow lengthens
over us, covering the leftovers.
Afternoon, with the pine tree’s shadow
swaying gently in our thoughts.
GREECE, A MOPED
Greece travels at forty MPH
like a moped along the coastal road.
The highest possible speed
coincides with the potential
of an enamoured look.
To record, to relish,
to recall the light’s slightest
deviations, the sea’s
rolling, and the wind‘s direction.
Greece and her hugging
pillion passenger shut
their eyes together.
She will never learn what
he meant to her, nor how very much
he owed her.
Thanks to low speed,
Greece is the only country
when at twilight
going to or returning from Sounion
may last a lifetime.
Published with the permission of Sotirios Pastakas