A poem by Dimitris Hill


Dimitris Hill

Three poems from Kithaironas

Here’s something very simple
that cannot happen in a city
A wheat stalk
piercing your sleeve

I saw a jasmine flower
As it fell

I wonder whether ugly trees exist
come, birds, and tell us
how you’d like your invisible garden

– translated by Panayotis Ioannidis


For this August: a summer image; a summer instant; and a question that birds need to answer.

Dimitris Hill was born in Kalamata in 1975. He was only twelve when he travelled to the Sinai Mountain; his encounter with the local Bedouins and the close relationship they established formed the basis of his first book, the short memoir Gebelia (Agra, Athens, 2016). Kithaironas, the poetry book from which this month’s selections are taken, appeared the next year from the same publisher; D.H.’s first book of poems, Beauty, had come out in 2004 (Iolkos, Athens). A second slim prose book followed in 2020: The fishing boat (Agra).

Kithaironas (Cithaeron) is the mountain on the border between Attica and Boeotia. In ancient times, it was considered as the place where Orpheus first introduced the rite of the god Dionysus; also where Oedipus had been abandoned as a baby. D.H.’s book of that name consists of 61 numbered, short poems (most without a title), preceded by an un-numbered, title-less, five-line poem: “Night was terrified / the pavements, slashed / the unknown lurked at every corner / a word at each step / that unknown word”. Uncertainty, ambivalence, strong images and emotions; the unknown world, the unknown word; the unexpected (world and word): quite a neat summation of the book’s atmosphere. Its diction is spare, occasionally appearing almost artless — and therein, of course, lies its wise and quiet art. The poems’ subjects range from ‘confessional’ lyrics to an elegy for Heliogabalus who reigned as Roman emperor for a brief four years of his adolescence, before being murdered in 222 CE. Mythological references are frequent, whether used symbolically (the Trojan Horse) or simply alluded to (gods, slain heroes); youth and nature are invoked often; but death is never far behind, even in springtime.

D.H. works as a maker of musical instruments and a coachman. Since 2006, he lives in Mani, with horses instead of — his great love — camels.

Pictured: An installation view with an anonymous sculpture on an architectural plinth, from the exhibition La Costante Resistenziale. A guide-tour of Sardinian archaic, weird and marvelous stone sculpture by Montecristo Project in Sardinia, Italy. Read our review of the exhibition here.