Ever so hesitantly Fin's hair sprouted in our yard. It's yellow and tall as wheat stalks. We don't water it much so it won't grow soft. We climb on it in the afternoon and braid it into plaits. Some of us hide behind the enormous ponytails and whisper secrets. When it rains Fin's hair crinkles and gets all messed up. We go out then, stiff brush in hand, and comb the yard.
– translated by Panayotis Ioannidis
Wheat stalks grow taller in May — but rain may spoil them. This agricultural nightmare is given a twist in this month's prose poem (for other prose poems in the und.Poetry series, see: Pavlina Marvin's “Ukrainian Story” , Stamatis Polenakis' “Farewell to Sylvia Plath”, and Danae Sioziou's “Home in the ground”) by Eva Stefani who is primarily a documentary filmmaker and visual artist. However, far from reading like a side project, her (so far first) book of 28 prose poems, Fin's hair (published by Polis, Athens, 2014), is an accomplished work. Some likened it to the poetic prose of formidable man of letters Epameinondas C. Gonatas (1924-2006), the subject of one of her most highly viewed documentaries, The return of E.C. Gonatas, a masterful and discreet portrait [https://youtu.be/302qIQc9ZzE ; in Greek, no subtitles]. Certainly, the ease with which she braids the oneiric and the irrational with the everyday, or her staccato phrasing, are reminiscent of Gonatas' finely polished art. But one may also think of other prose poem writers in Greek — such as the magnificent Nike-Rebecca Papageorgiou (1948-2000). And it would constitute praise indeed to say that anyone successfully followed in either's footsteps. Be that as it may, Eva Stefani's Fin's hair reads like a cycle of prose poems interweaving childhood memories (real or imagined, that is immaterial) and dream-like vignettes, with titles ranging from “A4”, “The head”, “Lake”, “Siblings” and “New Year's Day”, to “Bubblegum”, “Titanic”, “Chickens” and “Lilibet”. With the exception of two pieces, the rest are usually not longer than half a page.
Eva Stefani was born in 1964 in the USA and now lives in Athens. She is a professor of Cinema Studies at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. She studied cinema in Paris (Ateliers VARAN), London (NFTS) and New York (NYU). She holds a PhD from Panteion University, Athens. Her filmography includes Manuscript, Virgin’s Temple, Athene, Acropolis, What time is it?, Bathers, The Box. Her films have been screened in various international film festivals (IDFA, Cinema du Reel, FIPA, etc.) and she has participated in major art exhibitions, such as Documenta14 and the Venice Biennale 2019. She is the author of two books on cinema: 10 texts on Documentary and Documentary: The Observation Game.
Excerpts from her work can be viewed on her website: https://evastefani.gr/.
She is interviewed here: https://www.greeknewsagenda.gr/interviews/filming-greece/6929-filming-greece-eva-stefani-on-the-immersing-power-of-documentaries-and-loving-people-on-the-fringe
Pictured: An artwork by Anthi Zahou, exhibiting with Tidal Flow at this year's Platforms Project, the independent art fair of Athens. Visit 68 exhibitors from 28 countries online from 27 May-10 June. Read more here.