A Poem by Stergios Mitas

21.11.2019

Stergios Mitas

THE ANGEL AND THE HUNCHBACK

I believe him. He is. And always turns his back.
His cornucopious hump sows everywhere bad luck.
And at my every meal, he's always the bad salt;
Red nail-marks on my white, innocent shoulder.

Trashcan for best ideas, stone-built cellar,
soundless, for my tears. The daily rag –
give me again today. They call you Butcher.
The fable's Hunchback or my Fairy-Dog.

Your memory is familiar evil and your touch is ruin.
And as you turned your back to me, my Siamese twin,
I thought I saw the future back to front:

Progress, a heap – and twittering of angels.
A ribbon round your head and, on your tummy, arrows,
a storm of Paradise, trapped in your cap.


— translated by Panayotis Ioannidis

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Stergios Mitas's poetry stands out in the contemporary Greek scene: it is one of the few examples where the use of traditional forms (the sonnet, for example, as in this poem), meter and rhyme (inadequately reproduced in this translation, I fear)—though Mitas also uses free verse and the prose-poem– yields poems at once formally perfect and truly contemporary, making no concessions to their direct diction and poetic substance.

His—so far unique—first book, Natural History of Theatres in Rhyme (Mikri Arktos, Athens, 2013), has, rather unusually but with good reason, a “Bibliography”, in which figure books by T. Adorno, W. Benamin and K. Marx, among others. The book is in five sections. One runs throughout the book: “Mr. Tristan Tzara's gas heart”—with five instalments in the form of prose poems. The other three sections are entitled “Natural History of Theatres in Rhyme” (eight poems in various forms), “St. Precarius Bomb Defuser” (two poems of three four-verse stanzas each), “What Karl Marx really said” (seven poems in various forms). The book ends with the “Ballad of the Clinic”. The poems do indeed treat political, historical and philosophical subjects—but with such enviable verve, humour and overall mastery, that readers's possible ignorance of all precise realia never risks mitigating their enjoyment of the poetry.

Stergios Mitas was born in 1980 in Thessaloniki. Apart from his aforementioned personal book, he has co-authored, with Thedoros Rakopoulos and Antonis Psaltis, the poetry book You know the end (Antipodes, Athens, 2017). His poems have been anthologised in Theodore Chiotis's (ed.) Futures – Poetry of the Greek crisis (Penned in the margins, London, 2015) and Maria Topali's (ed.) Dichtung mit Biss (Romiossini Edition, Berlin, 2018). In addition, he has translated poetry from English and French, and published several studies, articles etc. in the fields of literary criticism, legal science, and political philosophy. He teaches, as a Lecturer in Legal Philosophy and Methodology, at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus.

Pictured: An artwork by Eleni Tsamadia, currently on display at her solo exhibition Some Colonies Are Less Important Than Others at Phoenix Athens.