Three Greek Poems (WLT Translation Prize – Poetry)

June 20, 2019
translated by Brian Sneeden
The poet Phoebe Giannisi and translator Brian Sneeden
The poet Phoebe Giannisi and WLT Translation Prize (Poetry) winner Brian Sneeden


Inside these articulations
the beginnings of language
outside of yes and no
inside only the I want
the soul with the body meeting
in all the openly
meteoric leaves
and now, see:
one of them falls slowly
to the earth



The word by itself germinates
beyond our decision for silence
every creature
on its path to the other
but the threads of the planets
are distinct
no matter how closely they are woven
stutterings of half-raveled words
that though written
never say what they say
or even what
you thought you meant


The Junk Dealer

“Kitchens washing machines old fridges
old storage units I’ll empty”
the junk dealer who buys words I wonder
will he buy the light?
(the words are coins
he scrubs them in water
to polish them
so they’ll shine as they fall)
yes, he bought the light
a dime
and goes about singing
proclaiming the same and the same
binding past with future
brimming with longing
and they clang
inside the old jalopy
the pieces of scrap the old lamp’s skeleton
the spring

Translations from the Modern Greek

Translator’s Note: From Cicada, a manuscript of selected poems by Phoebe Giannisi originally published in Greek in the collection Rhapsodia (2016). These translations were completed with support from a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant.

Learn more about the WLT Translation Prize here.

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.