Four Poems from Greece

August 15, 2017
translated by Brian Sneeden
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 seven books of poetry, including Homerica (Kedros, 2009) and Rhapsodia (Gutenberg, 2016). A 2016 Humanities Fellow at Columbia University, Giannisi co-edits FRMK, a biannual journal of poetry, poetics, and visual arts. Her work lies at the border between poetry, performance, theory, and installation, investigating the connections between language, voice, and writing with body, place, and memory. She is an associate professor at the School of Architecture, University of Thessaly, and currently lives in Volos, Greece.

Brian Sneeden is a PhD candidate in translation studies at the University of Connecticut. Peter Constantine, director of the UConn Program in Literary Translation, is his sponsoring professor. Sneeden’s collection of poems, Last City, was recently published by Carnegie Mellon University Press (2018), and his translation of Giannisi’s Homerica (World Poetry Books) was published in 2017. He currently serves as senior editor of New Poetry in Translation.