top of page
P8316728 copy.jpg

Translations

NIKOS FOKAS
THE KNOWN:  SELECTED POEMS
(1981-2000)

One of the most important figures in Greek letters, Nikos Fokas was born on the island of Kefalonia in 1927 and educated in Athens. From 1960 to 1974 he lived in London and worked in the Greek division of the BBC World Service.  

Along with several volumes of fiction and critical essays, he published 14 books of poetry and 11 volumes of translations, including from English the work of Thomas Hardy, Thomas de Quincy, Robert Frost and Philip Larkin.  His own poems have been translated into English, French, Serbo-Croatian, Bulgarian and Italian.

  

An Honorary Fellow at the University of Iowa, and a former Stanley J. Seeger Writer-in-Residence in the Hellenic Studies Program, Princeton University, in 2005 he received the two highest honors in Greek letters—the Grand Prize in Literature from the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Medal of Distinction in Letters from the Athens Academy of Arts and Sciences—both of which were awarded for lifetime achievement.  

With the publication of The Known in 2010, Fokas received yet another lifetime achievement award, this time from the London Hellenic Society, honoring the dual language edition of his selected poems, which was also shortlisted for the Greek National Translation Award.

After a long illness, he passed away on July 26, 2021.
 

Poem from the book:

Flies

What’s become of the flies 

   of nineteen thirty-four, 

Offspring of ancient fat flies 

  from the previous year—

Those with us 

   when we were the world’s youth—

What’s become 

   of the flies of my generation?

 

Remember in bedrooms their liveliness 

   completely independent from our own?—

Since, as you know, 

   according to nature’s law 

   the history of flies

And that of humankind

Evolve independently, without 

   interference or mutual sympathy.

 

Take the day for example 

   Venizélos died:

Mother cried and the flies

Buzzed round our human grieving

—Like passersby 

   near a stranger’s funeral—

Thinking only

Of their own dead.

 

Stylish, thin-waisted flies, with wings 

   transparent and laid out,

Evidence of impeccable tailoring

   over tiny black shoulders—

They compel me

   with their insistent song

   in a minor key

Toward some profound essence.

 

I remember them flying

   perpetually in motion above us,

Settling down sometimes

   in a warm swath of sunlight

—Eight in the morning,

   across tables and floors—

Coupled sometimes

as if doubled.

 

Such familiarity with humans,

   you’d think they were

   old acquaintances,

Though they’re merely

   transient, easy to grasp images

   of a timeless elusive archetype.

But as our acquaintances we remember them

   and mourn for them now.

 

Truly, we mourn for them,

And sincerely I confess to you that when

   we speak of our dead,

Parents or relatives

   or simply those we’ve known,

Calm in the sun like

   this year’s flies

—The youth of the world, our survivors—

 

I confess to you I feel tenderness

Even for flies 

   of past seasons

—Violating as a poet 

   nature’s law—

Tenderness for the dead 

   of another history, yes, 

   and its lost generations.

IMG_2465 copy.jpg

OTHER TRANSLATION PUBLICATIONS

ANTHOLOGIES (Selected):

A Century of Greek Poetry: 1900 – 2000 (Hellenic Literary Society, Cosmos Publishing Co., 2004:        

Kiki Dimoula:

     "Atrophied Instinct"

     "The Adolescence of Forgetfulness"

 

Nikos Fokas:

     "Grey Season"

     "Group Photo"

     "Random Sounds"

     "Spirit Saturday"

 

Liana Sakelliou Schultz:

     "Acrobats"

     "Santorini Mist"

The Greek Poets:  Homer to the Present, Norton, 2010:

Nikos Fokas:

     "Group Photo"

     "Random Sounds"

JOURNALS (Abridged):

Liana Sakelliou:

Los Angeles Review:
           “Greta Garbo at Kyveleia”
           “The Conquest, July 21, 1969”

Ergon:
            “With a View of the Sea”

Plume:
           “Since Childhood”
           “The Virgin’s Miracles”

RHINO Poetry:

“Marine Education at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century”

“The Italian Circus on the Moriatiki Shore”

“Five Contemporary Greek Poets”

The High Window (UK):

     Sakis Serefas

     Liana Sakelliou

     Niki Chalkiadaki

     Elsa Korneti

     Antonis Balasopoulos

bottom of page