A poem by Yiannis Doukas


Yiannis Doukas


a splash quite unnoticed


Like a Wuppertal dancer, or lighthouse
faintly glimmering, the wounded man drops
like a knife on the square's breast,
with his dense weight, head first,

his nape bending and breaking;
everything flows around, goes on
slow and indifferent, as if
drawing a plough the whole day long.

All men have different, fresh concerns,
yet inwardly rehearse
Icarus' fall and grace
secretly, on rooftops and on stairs.

Flying in dream, then fallen,
the splash unheard and hidden.

— translated by Panayotis Ioannidis


Yiannis Doukas has been serving the demands of formal and metric beauty in his poetry consistently, putting his original, meticulously thought out and demanding subject matter under its strict yoke — until his most recent, fourth, book, where some relaxation has been allowed.

But, to come back to his third, The Stendhal Syndrome (published by Polis in 2013, it received the G. Athanas Award of the Academy of Athens), to which this month's poem belongs, French author Stendhal (1783-1842) himself described its symptoms thus: “I was already in a sort of ecstasy, at the idea of being in Florence, and the vicinity of great men whose tombs I has just seen. Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty, I saw it up close, I was touching it, so to speak. I had reached that point of emotion where celestial sensations provoked by the Visual Arts meet passionate sentiment. Coming out of the [church] Santa Croce, I had palpitations, what they call nerves in Berlin; life was spent in me, I was walking in fear of falling.” In Y.D.'s book, the 53 tightly knit sonnets sometimes give rise to a similarly vertiginous reaction. Their majority weave a spell around sculptures one may see in Athens and London (plus a few other cities): the one referred to here, is a monument to fallen military pilots. The wealth of references, the density of allusions, and their multiplied reflections are characteristic of Y.D.'s style and achievement.

His next, fourth, book, Thebes Memphis (Polis, 2020), ups the ante of the concept as (artistic) bet. This more voluminous work consists of a parade of 'portraits' of figures active in, or related to the period 1914-1945; in his introduction, Y.D. quotes Enzo Traverso's branding of this era as “European civil war”.

Yiannis Doukas was born in Athens in 1981. He studied Philology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, and Digital Humanities at King’s College, London. For the past few years, he lived in Galway, Ireland, working towards a Ph.D. on intertextuality in late antique epic poetry and methods for its digital representation. His first book was a short story collection, The World as I Came and Found it (Kedros, 2001); his second consisted of poems: Inner Borders (Polis, 2011; “Diavazo” Journal Debut Poetry Collection Award). His poems have been translated into English, French, German, Serbian, Dutch and Polish, and included in several anthologies. Some have also been set to music by Greek composers Thanos Mikroutsikos and Nikos Platyrachos. Y.D. himself translates from the English; for example, e. e. cummings' erotic poems (with Haris Vlavianos; published by Patakis, 2014). He has also published book reviews in Greek newspapers and literary magazines.

More by Y.D. in English, online:
Poems translated/adapted into English: On the constellation of cancer, Sappho the housewife, Epitaph, To spin a yarn, Migraines, Playmobil, The Catalogue of Ships, My Atlantic State
Poems written in English: Speaks the Grand Nobody, Ghost stories of the River Lee, Kaspar's Tree, or Europe's Child.
An interview: Poetry as a Means to Play with Form and Explore Language

Pictured: Konstantinos Pettas, Sometimes they come with urges, 2020. Bronze, plaster. This wall-mounted sculpture bears the word "head" on its front and is part of the exhibition Urban Antibodies, presented earlier this month at weekend.Athens. Read more here.