A poem by Anna Griva


Anna Griva


Swimming could be an extension of the desert
palm trees exasperate her calm
and stop life from moving on
like the rider on the dog
who said don’t compare me to the rider on the horse
because I haven’t a sword or sheath, not in my belt
and up till now I hadn’t considered it
as something he was missing

– translated by Karen Van Dyck; included in her anthology Austerity Measures – The New Greek Poetry (Penguin Books, 2016; New York Review Books, 2017).


Anna Griva's first book, The voice of the killed man, came out in 2010 (from Haramada Publishers, Patra). Its first line, standing alone at the bottom of a page, is: the world can only heal by whispers — rather a bold line to open a poetry book, let alone a first one. Bold as this entire debut, in fact, which seems 'through-composed'. It is unclear if this is a single poem or a sequence of poems (all untitled); metrical stanzas alternate with free verse; units made out of short lines, with others made out of long ones, and even prose paragraphs; vivid images oscillate between magical realism and surrealism; narratives are interrupted by spells and incantations.

Her second book, Our days of being wild (Gavriilidis Publishers, Athens, 2012) was — paradoxically — 'tamer': four sections (“Prehistory”, “Experiments”, “Illusions”, “Dreams”; this latter section includes the fragment presented here: the sixth of nine parts making up the poem “Depths” — or, perhaps, equally, “Seabed”) with all poems bearing titles. Here, Griva simultaneously explored the personal voice that was so striking and welcome in her debut, but also 'retreated' into 'safer', more approachable modes of diction, with a 'smoother' musicality and a more familiar lyricism, occasionally recalling the style of previous poetic generations. It was this latter direction that was consolidated in her third and fourth books, Birds are like that and Dark entangled thread (both from Gavriilidis, 2015 and 2017), where Griva makes interesting use of folk fairy-tales (or narratives borrowing their traits) and mythical figures. We still get, in the best poems, striking imagery and original story-telling twists within a magic realist or mythologising atmosphere, now more obviously serving symbolist aims. Yet one cannot help but crave (and wish) for a return to, and a further exploration of, her initial heady mix and the patently personal path she started carving out for herself; hopefully, in the books to come!

Anna Griva was born in Athens in 1985; she studied Greek in Athens and history of literature in Rome. She teaches creative writing at the Hellenic Open University. Her poems have also been translated in French, Italian, German and Spanish.

More by A.G. in English online


Pictured: Yorgos Maraziotis, Untitled, 2018. Yorgos Maraziotis's participatory project Βγαίνοντας (Exiting) takes place in Thessaloniki on 25, 26 and 27 June 2020. Read more here.