A poem by Eftychia Panayiotou

21.10.2020

Eftychia Panayiotou

the hand breaks into drawing, means infirmary

i draw a triangle in my book.
god on the top corner, on the left my cat,
the pencil on the right.
it’s a magical triangle
because
as my memory stretches back
unwanted
the lines wane and unwind and wobble back and forth
and god is now a black priestess, my cat a panther,
my pencil a pen.

the panther’s ravenous; he craves the priestess.
the pen’s permanent; it’s out for his blood.
it’s how the edges are wiped
and the female alone
is saved
unused to power
she won a battle she ignored.

a white procession ― fell upon me,
perhaps bestowed by necessity,
who points at me her little wand and now i
play the fool.
out of form

i break myself loose onto a galloping thing like my elixirs cutting
my papers shredding my sorceries, you‘re a crypt
―Grotta Azzura― and something like a line dawning
into a new one, crooked, something’s odd about this shape ―devilish
triangle― can’t be drawn.


– translated by Costas Koutsikouris


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This poem by Eftychia Panayiotou (born in Nicosia, Cyprus, in 1980) opens her second book, Black Moralina (Kedros, 2010; Third Prize for Best Book by a Young Poet at the 2010 Poetry Symposium). “Moralina” is a word coined by the poet herself, presumably from the Greek root “μωρ-” [mor], which could be derived from both “baby” (in its age-describing as well as in its affectionate meanings) and “idiot”. The feminine ending “-ίνα” [ina] is not unusual in Greek; however, the overall sound of “moralina”, especially coming from a Greek woman poet, inevitably also brings to mind the magnificent, pioneering Greek woman poet Eleni Vakalo (1921-2001) and her poetic character / persona “kyra Rodalina” [missus Rodalina]. (Indeed, the first part of the book's motto comes from Vakalo's 1984 book, Kyra Rodalina's Palaver). As for the title's “black”, this is hardly an unusual metaphoric colour for E.P.'s poetry which is often dark in mood; occasionally ostensibly hermetic (though with carefully laid down leads); and sometimes employs—and exploits—the hallucinatory mode.

The range of moods and references in her poetry; her oscillation between the spare and the expressionist; her striking visual elements and word-play; can all be briefly illustrated quite effectively by the section titles of this and her next book. In Black moralina, we have: “look at Moralina; she has cut her hair”, “she cries with Mrs. Modigliani's passion”, “she looks through her little mirror at the beautiful face of an Other who got lost some October”, “when she touches her lipstick to her lips, there are no hues of red”, “that man knows, who has seen the sun;”, “with birds' invalid sounds”, “noone's a necrophile”, “PHOTOGRAPH OF FRANCESCA WOODMAN”. Notice also how these phrases, in either the above or inverted order, could form a poem whose title appears last. In her third book, Dancers (Kedros, 2014), the section titles read: “Marionettes”, “I fell asleep, and sleep rose up”, “Action of the body before cynicism”, “Warm-up”; these four sections are preceded by a poem entitled “Sleep's verdict”.

Eftychia Panayiotou is a poet, copy editor and poetry translator based in Athens. Her first book, great gardener, came out in 2007 (Koinonia ton Dekaton). She has translated poems by Anne Sexton, Anne Carson, and the English Romantics. Her own poems, in English, German, Italian, and Spanish translation, have appeared in anthologies and journals. She studied Philosophy in Athens and Modern Greek Literature in London. Her Ph.D. thesis was on Modern Greek Poetry written by women in the 1970s. She is also active on the video poetry scene.

Poems by E.P. in English, available online:

~ https://fivedials.com/verse/variations-on-anne/
~ https://www.odyssey.pm/contributors/eftychia-panayiotou/
~ https://poets.gr/en/poets/panayiotou-eftychia
~ http://d7.drunkenboat.com/db19/greekpoets/eftychia-panayiotou.html

An interview in English:

~ https://greeknewsagenda.gr/index.php/interviews/reading-greece/6959-reading-greece-eftychia-panayiotou-on-poetry-as-a-means-to-be-exposed-to-the-playful-complexity-of-our-realities

Pictured: An oil painting by Charlotte Nieuwenhuys, currently on display at the exhibition The Loss and the Rest at Zoumboulakis Gallery in Athens.

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