Anna Griva

Anna Griva

Anna Griva (Athens, 1985) studied Philology in Athens and History of Literature in Rome. She has a PhD on Italian Renaissance Literature. She has published six poetry collections. The collection entitled Demons (Melani, 2020) was honored with an Award by the Academy of Athens. She has also published a collection of short stories (The Animal Gods, Kichli, 2021) and two historical novels (The Greek slave, Melani, 2022; Exiled Queens, Melani, 2021). Her poems and short stories have been translated into many languages, in magazines, anthologies and standalone volumes. She translates Italian literature, with an emphasis on female renaissance poetry. Her translation of the poems of Laura Battiferra was honored in 2020 by the Italian Institute of Athens. She has published a study on the Platonic Parmenides and a monograph on the Sapphic poetry. She teaches Italian Literature at the Hellenic Open University and Creative Writing at the University of Athens.

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When I saw Mycenae
I was eight years old
Atreus’ tomb
smelled of a dead man’s flesh
and I was sure that somewhere
they had forgotten his body
rotting thousands of years
his kingdom turning into dust

they assured me that the stones’
mouldy smell reached my nose
and the sunless mustiness
the king isn’t even
the air’s dust anymore
so they told me
but I was burning and reddened
as if stepping in the fire

in that furnace
love inflamed Hades
immersing us little by little
in its soft bed.


Seven were left that winter
all women all widows with a black kerchief
leaving uncovered a lock
of white hair
and clogs which their swollen joints

at night there was no quietness in the village:
from the stone stairs and up to the towers
there was a diffusion of weeping and wailing
for the dead of last year and the year before last
and the unknown forefathers
a spiritual psalm
when they went to bed
and with eyes shut
they narrated the dowry of the underworld
that took brides and sisters
on its copper spoon
for the soil to have something to eat
and be satiated in spring

the cellars were empty of wine and olive oil
in the corners a stack of boxes jumbled bones
shiny skulls
which they dusted with their aprons
before locking them up again

then they put on their clogs
and go out to visit their neighbours
sitting for hours wondering
which shoulder suits the clavicle best
who was he who cracked
and who the other who began rubbing himself
and slowly becomes powder in his urn…


I catch a fly in my hands
the anguish of her wings tickles me
if I squeeze a little she dies
if I slacken she gets away
it’s best I keep still
make her a gift of an involuntary little house
a cage I’ll call home
and gradually she’ll learn to love
the rails of my fingers
she’ll dust every streak
with a kerchief on her horns
and she’ll wash all my veins
thinking that I’ve dirtied myself

but I don’t carry such an evil
when I count her heartbeat
What do you want, my Dorcas, I tell her
what do you want, silk pure silk,
in your green eyes
what is it, my Maenad, and you roar
with the soul of a lioness

I open my hand wide
and gently scratch the wind
as she flutters
towards our invisible cage
for us to decorate together
the night’s inevitable girdle.

From the book So Are the Birds (2015), Translated from the Greek by Yannis Goumas ©

600 B.C.
Sappho and Cleis

“She sings all through the night
not caring if
the child is fed
dressed warm enough
to not catch a cold
and the child never
leaves her side
it turns round and round
and laughs as if drunk
by the sound of her voice
and her caresses”

The women could say
all they wanted that
she did not care
if the child was fed or warm
When she sang to
her little Cleis
who was a treasure
more precious than all the Lydian’s wealth
the house was flooded
by a light that flowed from deep inside the earth
and so everyone
came to believe
whoever enters there
does not eat or drink
and fears neither winter
nor death

Like a butterfly
you can live there
eating the air as nectar.

A.D. 1st century
Letter on papyrus

You are nowhere to be found
in temples   the market
  the theatre
I look for you calling out
your name
seeking deep into the catacombs

now I write to you one final time
and my hand is going berserk:
If I do not see you by tonight
I shall banish all stars
from my sight

so that the sky
turns dark
a black bird
of the tomb.

A.D. 421
Eudocia’s coronation

Everyone found her pensive
and believed the din
from the crowd
was a distraction
but she couldn’t hear a thing
besides her one thought:
Leaving Athens was a mistake
its academies
the discussions
and the sacred light.
It was a mistake.

Now where would she
find incense
made of rich fruits
where to find
statues of gods
with beautiful shins and loins?
It was a mistake
leaving Athens behind.

Now she will stoop
below crosses and pray
and she must for no reason
ever bare her heels
and thus give away
that she is a descendant
of Achilles.

Captive of the Saracens

The first time I set eyes
on the sea
is through a dark porthole.
But who cares anymore
about waves seagulls dolphins?
I wish for death before nightfall
one side of my scarf tied to the sail
and on the other a noose
and then my neck.
And when the sailors see me hanging they will believe
me to be an Aegean nymph
and my final spasms
will seem ethereal and beautiful.

I shall become
the first flag of my country
and maybe one day
they will say that
a girl’s beautiful loins
was no small sacrifice.

From the book Demons (2020), Translated from the Greek by Erophile Josephine Papadogia ©

Poetry in this post: © Anna Griva
Published with the permission of Anna Griva