Four Poems from Greece

August 15, 2017
translated by 
Lorenzo Gaudenzi, “Agria,” September 15, 2016
Lorenzo Gaudenzi, “Agria,” September 15, 2016

For more, read Brian Sneeden’s translator’s note on Giannisi’s work.


(Nostos I)

                                                for mom

– can one live with memories?
– one can
– can one live with memories without
wishing for a recurrence?
– I don’t know
(I don’t know how they do it those who grieve the loss of ones they truly loved
but nearly always they find a way
to bear it even when it seems impossible
or they couldn’t survive
without the other without him but life
plays other tricks time never repeats itself
the body knits to the soul resists
in order to forget
it remembers to continue to live) 


(Penelope IV)

if there wasn’t old age then she wouldn’t be afraid to lose you
losing the other isn’t quite as terrible
as utter annihilation and loneliness
is telling lies again
of course one can’t choose everything
bit by bit he figures out
times change
the loss of union was there from the start
in union itself
loss of the other in coexistence
no one’s the same before and now
you I
not because time passes and nothing remains
not because we’re always seeking something new
but because then you
desired me
and I you
for epilogue a plate of food wine and silence


(Episode IV)

we met inside a room
a wave shut the door
your eyes were blue
then green
no – we met outside
there was a rustle of pines
it was noon
no – we met
at night
night woke us
our one consolation was the sun 



I’m locked inside the cave of the Cyclops
with his solitary eye guarding me
I stay awake.
– Cyclops open the door for me!
– Cyclops let me leave!
the Cyclops caresses the fuzz on my back.
lights a fire
rubs his hands
eats my meat my cheese my wine
sleeps happily
still guarding me
with his solitary eye open. 

Translations from the Greek
By Brian Sneeden

Editorial note: From Ομηρικά (Homerica), copyright © 2009 by Phoebe Giannisi, English translation copyright © 2017 by Brian Sneeden.

Photo © Sofia Camplioni Photography

Phoebe Giannisi ( is the author of six books of poetry, including Homerica (Kedros, 2009) and Rhapsodia (Gutenberg, 2016). Her work focuses on the borders between poetry and performance, theory and representation, and investigates the connections of poetics with body and place. A 2015–2016 Humanities Fellow of Columbia University, Giannisi is an associate professor at the University of Thessaly. She co-edits FRMK, a biannual journal of poetry, poetics, and visual arts.

Brian Sneeden’s first collection of poems, Last City, is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press (2018). His poems and translations have appeared in Asymptote, Beloit Poetry Journal, Harvard Review, TriQuarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, and other publications, and translations of his poetry have been published in Greek, Albanian, and Serbian. His translation of Phoebe Giannisi’s collection, Homerica, is forthcoming from the inaugural series of World Poetry Books (2017).

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