George Prevedourakis TIDE
Skinny evening in a Sunday sandpit
– translated by Panayotis Ioannidis
This year's second autumn poem is an intricate, Escheresque, miniature arabesque over time and place, by George Prevedourakis who was born in 1977 in Athens, where he currently lives.
In his four published poetry books, he appears to alternate collections of short poems with more structured poem-sequences. "Tide" comes from his first book, Momentograph [Stigmiografo] (Planodion Editions, 2011); the third one was Notelets [Hartakia] (Panopticon Editions, 2016).
Kleftiko, that appeared in 2013 (again by Panopticon), was based in part on Allen Ginsberg's Howl, transposing its fury, denunciation and lamentation to the Greece of today, buttressed by references to its 20th century past. This cycle of four long poems (available online in Brian Sneeden's masterful translation; see below), with interspersed short interludes, borrows its title from the “kleftika”, the Greek folk songs narrating the harsh life, the triumphs and the death of “bandit” guerrillas during Greece's Ottoman occupation, from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Interestingly, "kleftiko" also occurs as a place-name for bays that offer excellent natural protection to ships; therefore, the book could also be construed as a harbour for the protest and angry sadness of its contents. It is supplemented by an Attic, supposedly a journal kept during its composition; another place to hide (things and oneself) in.
Prevedourakis's latest book, Roses St. [Odos Rodon] (Panopticon Editions, 2018) is constructed as a 'neighbourhood of poems': many of them bear as titles existing street names of an Athens suburb. A network of poems, therefore, casting a wide net over the Greece of today, culturally and politically — and, as with Kleftiko, interweaving these with the personal. It is clearly not coincidental that, instead of an “attic”, this book ends with an extensive “Labyrinth”. In these two more complex books, Prevedourakis's subtle handling of detail and his lyrical observation — magnificently evident in this month's poem — balance against, and skilfully complement a robust rhetorical tone.
Prevedourakis has also edited and translated two anthologies of poems by German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger: History of Clouds and Other Poems and Defense of the Wolves and Other Poems (Panopticon Editions, 2016 and 2019, respectively).
More by G.P. in English online:
- An interview: http://www.greeknewsagenda.gr/index.php/interviews/reading-greece/6236-reading-greece-george-prevedourakis-on-the-notion-of-time-in-poetic-expression-and-poetry-as-a-political-paradigm
Pictured: Dionysis Pappas, Totem, 2019. A sculpture from the exhibition Unusual Self-Portraits, currently on view at The Project Gallery and curated by Konstantinos Basios. More info about the exhibition here.