from Three days and a third
what sweet innocence this
hides well the secret
maybe the best thing for us to do
is to wrap up tight
with all those sticky tapes
around the unknown that was given us as gift
on new year’s day fireworks
can you hear how steep
from moment onto moment?
they embraced so tight
that they went through each other
that’s now where I am speaking from to you
I am the knot
of those I call my own
— translated by Panayotis Ioannidis
Three, yes — but years, have flowed (and flown) already since the first poem in this column! When und.’s founding editor Kiriakos Spirou invited me to curate und. Poetry, the brief was poets writing in Greek and who first appeared in print after 1990 — and poems that might hold a special appeal to an audience primarily interested in the visual arts.
In choosing this poem from Dimitra Kationi’s second book (published by Thraca, Larissa, 2016) for December, I was thinking mostly of its wrapped up (peculiar) present(s) and an upcoming New Year’s Day. Serendipity — or my unconscious — unveiled only a few days ago the added bonus of a shared play on threes: in the book’s title, and the years (so far) of und. Poetry.
During this third (and my concluding, as editor) year, 2021, I put a slight emphasis on poets and publishers outside Athens. Indeed, Dimitra Kationi was born in Kavala in 1983, and has been living in Thessaloniki since 2001. Her poetry has been translated in German and been presented in festivals in Greece and abroad. She studied, plays and teaches music, and it would not be misplaced, I believe, to attribute part of her rhythmic precision, word play and more general aural playfulness to her practice of that other art.
Her first book, Fairy tale from above (Roes, Athens, 2008), opened with an astonishing and linguistically daring — if not outright cheeky — poem:
With a small girl dress
As a game
I wear it inside out
Dress of an invisible small girl
As a game
It wore me inside out
And we went blind
Both of us
That first book immediately established her as a voice to count on and expect from. She did not confound these expectations; instead, she rewarded them with a second book (her third will be released soon) that was highly interesting both formally and in terms of material. The play of threes becomes evident in the typesetting, with each two-page spread containing three poems (would the musician that she is, call this a 3/2 time signature?) arranged in 1+2’s — only to be inverted at the very end, with a single 2+1 group. But the number “3” manifests itself in the content too, with related terms often appearing in threes among each triad (trinity?) of poems. In the present poem, such a term-triad might be “wrapping”/“present”/“New Year’s Day”; elsewhere, we encounter “writing”/”write”/”written”; “mum”/”dad”/”kid” (family appears to be a particular concern); or much subtler combinations.
But what of the book title’s remaining “third”? That is for us, the readers (as third party), to find out — or to imagine. Happy reading, and a Happy(er) New Year!
Pictured: Etel Adnan's Satellites 29 (2020), a small oil painting currently on view at the exhibition Lives of an Object, co-organised by Andreas Melas at Martinos and ARCH. Read more here.