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


Much is said about the reasons that led
to the conflict between Trojans and Greeks
in the land of Ionia, in 1400 BC.
The most recent theories speak of the practice
of plundering that still exists today.
Gangs organized by states, companies, monarchs
besieged, burned and seized
flocks, treasures, women, slaves.

Yet I was always surprised
by those details such as
when the Greeks dragged their ships
black ships with huge eyes on their prows
when the Greeks dragged their ships
there on the sand in a long line. The first thing
they built after setting up their tents
were the baths, with the basins, the faucets
and then the stadium for contesting the games.

Naturally they needed flocks for food
cattle and sheep and goats. They needed
bread and wine and timber, they needed
women slaves who very often became
their tender companions
on sheepskins and weave from Aetolia,
Mycenae, Thessaly, Ithaca.
Naturally they sought, and forced or seized
but the war was not because of this.

When I gazed at you naked on your mattress
there in the stone house which has constellations
for guards. While I gazed at you
outside the mirror, alive, through time
while I gazed at you and enjoyed
again and once more and again and once more
your divine, your deadly beauty,
I realized only too well that this war
was simply for a woman.


Because Odysseus didn’t want war
because he didn’t want to be conscripted
he took to plowing when he heard
Agamemnon’s envoys were nearing.
He plowed with this and with that
grabbed handfuls of salt and sowed it
to convince them he was mad.

Or perhaps without knowing it
in sowing salt he was party to a magic rite,
destined as he was for years and years
to reap the sea?

© Translation by David Connolly


That we live mythically escapes us.
That the beggar in the corner is a king escapes us.
That perhaps we are already pigs in Circe’s pigsty escapes us.
That perhaps this city is digesting us because it is Charybdis’ stomach
     this escapes us. That the washing machine is the one-eyed
     Polyphymus that works for us escapes us.
That the excavator that growls digging the soil is a dragon this
     escapes us.
That the adder in the grass or in the stones is Apollo’s flexible arrow
     that is looking for our heel escapes us.
That every motorcycle is the iron incarnation of that Gold-haired Ram
     escapes us.
That the port is the ships’ stone corral this escapes us.
That all ships carry a white-haired fleece escapes us.
That all ships are trying to re-write the Galaxy’s golden-fleece
     on the water this escapes us.
That water is a knife that excoriates us taking away from our body
     the white, curly, many-eyed lather this escapes us.
That the towels in our bathroom are neither moss around the spring,
     nor the seven peplums of Istar, but the mirror’s seven skins
     escapes us.
That the lady who comes to the park with her three dogs every
     afternoon is Persephone with Cerverus escapes us.
That we have already been buried this escapes us;
It escapes us that the sun that touches the twilight there on the hill
     is the guardian of our tomb, a Sphinx, a lion, with a mirror
     as a face and rays as hairs.
It escapes us that the Moon is our lost entombed mask which
     enflamed like a lion emerges from the thicket with deathlike silence.
That we live completely mythically escapes us.
That the pencil we hold may be the prong that blinded
     Cyclops, this escapes us.
That the suitors are here eating and enjoying Odysseus’s
     wealth escapes us.
That like Odysseus the poet is a stranger in his own house
     this escapes us.
That already the suitors’ souls are coming off the sky’s cave and go
     creaking down to Hades this escapes us.
That Hermes without malice leads them through the wet paths
     towards darkness this escapes us.
That we live mythically escapes us.
That we are shadows roaming outside time’s mirror this escapes us.

© Translation by Ourania Yfanti


Oh sea I feel ecstatic, I bend my knees before your neighbouring
     Minoan lily. Who is all crimson, fleshy and pen, with a long
     phallus that looks embroidered by the bees perhaps,
     the butterflies and Nireus’ many teenage daughters.

Here is Iphiánassa, Kynthia, and Aloe
here is Yakynthine, Alea, Kymothóe
and Flésve and Ostrakené and Pórphera and Chloe
and here is Echyessa and Póntea and Plóe.

The laurels with their all-black shining seeds, because they’re never
     asked to pay taxes, and the palm trees wear huge gold bunches as
     earrings, near the light-green salt-trees of the seashore.

And Katerina painted the tripod in gold, and I thought you won a
     prize for the peace you put between the flies and the mosquitoes,
     and for trapping the flies in large Koronean jars.

And if you are the wisest dog in the Mediterranean, you must definitely
     be Diogenis’ friend. You must have the large jar as your house
     as every brave man, and it wouldn’t matter that you’d often look
     like a snail.

© Translation by Ourania Yfanti


Where are you now? Did you find Ithaka? What countries or islands are
     there beyond it? Do they have people? Do they know the bread
     and the wine? Do they know the art of weaving?

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

Poetry in this post: © Yannis Yfantis
Published with the permission of Yannis Yfantis