Yannis Yfantis

Yannis Yfantis

Yannis Yfantis was born according to his willing in Raina (a valley of Etolia) thousands of years ago. He studied agriculture, cattle-breeding, the art of riding as well as astronomy and the art of weaving*.

When he was 22 years old he left his studies in Law in order to study undiverted the book of the World.

His published books are: Manthraspenta (1977), Mystics of the Orient (1982), Elder Edda (1983), The Mirror of Proteus (1986), Signs of Immortal Memory (1987), Poems Embroideries on the Skin of the Devil (1988), Temple of Cosmos (1996), The Garden of Poetry (2000), Archetypes (2001), The Ideogram of the Snake (2003), Love Unconquered in the Fight (2004), Transformations of Zero (2009), Under the Icon of the Stars (2013).

Many of his poems have been translated in English, French, Bulgarian, Italian, Russian, Spanish and, recently, in Arabic, Persian, Chinese, German, Finnish, and Serbian.

Although he believes that the books are made by themselves, he received, unexpectedly, for them, the Cavafis Prize for 1995 in Cairo.

* Yfantis means weaver


At four and a half in the morning, if you go out of your sleep, in the most ancient gallery of the sky you can see Orion’s painting rising bright and clear, chasing the Pleiades with a starry bow and arrows made of gold and fire.

The Dog follows behind having Sirius as his head.

In the most ancient gallery.

Neither a barbarian’s raid, nor floods and earthquakes can damage something or detach even a little piece of its mosaic.

In the most ancient gallery, where anyone can enter without payment.
The rich entered and the poor, slaves and free men, believers and non-believers, army commanders, shepherds, tradesmen and rebels, and sea-men and ploughmen, heroes, poets, wise men, magicians, beggars, kings, and astronomers, and nomads, individuals, and peoples and teams, and exiles in the islands of Makronisos, and Kos, and Tzia. Animals entered, and plants, and the sea that with its mirror of tears reflects the star, the bird, the thief, and the whole beautiful world, the ungraceful and the killer, the careless plebs that welcome with palm leaves the saint and the robber before they crucify or bury them
inside the dungeon and the gaol.

In the most ancient gallery that is always in flux and always remains still, being unique in the world for those who seek comfort in beauty.


I do not know if it was Ritsos or Homer
who convinced me to enter the Trojan Horse
holding only a sword and a mirror.

I come from the desert, where the sand
is the crush of every form.

I come from the Ursae, carrying
a sack full of stars, holding in my hand
a moon-mask.

I come from the hut, plaited with branches of lightning.
I come from a house made of mirrors.

I come from the mountain gorge, that is curved like a sword
half filled with snow, half filled with flowers.

I come from the banks of the mountain river
where waterfalls – ascetics
stand up
inside jars made of stone.

I come from the North; wearing
two half-moons as skates,
sliding continuously on the snow
for three thousand years.

I come from the Tatarian hordes; I am the soldier
who slaughtered Attar and
I am also Attar himself and
the knife which slaughtered him.

I come from the black galaxy of ants, which sweeps away
a dead butterfly
like an angel’s sailing-boat
like Icarus after his fall.

I come from Greece, which
with her Peloponnesean hand
               reached out and scattered
               the islands around herself
               so that she doesn’t
                                                  lie alone in the sea.

I come from the hole of a rotten branch
where I was officiating,
wearing the dress of a wild bee
or the vestments of a butterfly.

I come from the dusk of Thessaly,
     where I was pasturing a flock of fires
                 for a thousand years.

I come from the book of Anaximandros;
I am always there, wherever, I go.

They asked me where I come from.
                                What could I tell them?
They wouldn’t understand me
               and then
they would lead me tied up
     to the psychiatrist.

“I’ come”, I said plainly, “from Agrinio*”,
hiding inside that word, as much as I could,
the “agrios”, the “ni”, and above all
the “o”, which is a well, a trap,
my home, a mirror and
               a labyrinth
               (the most complicated labyrinth,
               even though it looks so simple; just a little ring).

* Agrinio: A city of Aetolia, whose name derives from the word “Agrios” (i.e “Wild”), the name of a mythical hero from ancient Aetolia).


At Hippocrateion* I went the day before to be examined by
Mr Naim -Assyrian-, who’s been living
for thirty years in Agrinion as a surgeon. And so
after examining me and finding nothing
except some bits of immortality
with his sufficient Greek, Mr Naim
earnestly, suggested, to mummify me
(in low voice he said in my ear) and put inside me
well-written papyruses with my poems.
“So Greece” he said “can have its own
Tutankhamun, and more, because
that prince, excuse me, that king,
was not a poet. Imagine, Yannis, to discover in
a hundred or a thousand years, your
excellent poetry, to read it, in the last
form of the Attic dialect, contemporary Greek.
With five hundred Euros”, he tells me, “Mr Yannis
we are ok. Say this
to your daughter, to keep in mind
and call me, in any case, as I come from Egypt and I know
as no one today, this ancient art; which keeps away from the dust
the human body, while making it a sack of leather
to keep your work inside it.
What pulverization they’ve gone through, imagine,
Great Alexander, Dante, your father, your mother
(Vassiliki? I knew her, vasilicos** (basil) was the smell of
her shadow!). My Yannis, think, anonymous
dust, mixed, dust into dust, and the wind taking you
here and there, the wind
which sometimes pretended it was your breath
(yes, the spirit, the spirit, ha) now taking you
in the wilderness, in markets, in alleys, in streets,
throwing you into the sea, saying to you, “take a new soul
from the ocean” and sneering at you, yes the wind,
while dragging your dust and spreading it on earth. Imagine it.
While, on the other hand, mummification …. and
having your papyruses inside you, how exquisite, being a library
a crypt for your poems. To me
must your friends
give your corpse.
Do not forget it, Yannis”.

* “Hippocrateion” is a hospital in the Greek city of Agrinion.
** “vasilikos” is the Greek word for “basil”.

For other contributions by Yannis Yfantis, please follow the links below:

Published with the permission of Yannis Yfantis & Ourania Yfanti