ENGLISH

Katerina Iliopoulou is a poet, artist and translator, who lives and works in Athens. She has studied Chemistry at the University of Thessaloniki and Fine Arts and Jewellery at the Metropolitan University in London.
Her poetry books are Mister T., 2007 (first prize for a new author by the prestigious literary journal “Diavazo”), Asylum (2008) and The Book of the soil (2011).
She has translated Sylvia Plath (“Ariel” melani ed. 2012), Mina Loy, Robert Hass and Ted Hughes. Her translations have been published in poetry journals and anthologies.
Her poetry has been translated and published in literary reviews, journals and anthologies in many languages (English, French, Italian, Spanish, Serbian, Turkish, Bulgarian).
Her first book Mister T. has been published in French (Oie de Cravan editions, Montreal 2012) and in Turkish (Delta Yayinlari editions, Istanbul 2012)
As a member of the artists’ collective intothepill (2006-2009) she has co-organized projects that bring together poetry and visual arts. Especially the multimodal project Karaoke Poetry Bar, which involved poetry, video and performance and was presented at the first Athens Biennial 2007.
Katerina Iliopoulou has participated in international writing and translation programs, festivals and Biennials.
Thessaloniki Biennale 2009 (performance with the project Poet’s Machine)
Word Express 2009-2010 (organized by Literature Across Frontiers)
Voix de la Mediterrane France 2010
Struga Poetry Evenings 2011.
Poetry Parnassus, London, Cultural Olympiad 2012
Istanbul International Poetry Festival 2012
She has also participated in translation workshops between poets in Scotland, Istanbul and Paros in Greece.
She is the editor of a bilingual anthology of contemporary Greek poetry (Karaoke Poetry Bar, Futura editions, 2007) and a member of poetry now, a poets’ collective who since 2008 organize discussions on poetics, readings and mixed media events to promote and inform about aspects of contemporary poetry.
She is co-editor of  greekpoetrynow.com

katilio@yahoo.gr
www.iliopoulou.wordpress.com
www.greekpoetrynov.com
www.volkovitch.com/ (poetry in french, under the chapter 12 jeunes poetes)
www.poetrynow.wordpress.com
karaokepoesie.blogspot.com

“….an imagery of exceptional intensity which evokes a constructed jungle. But the poems’ epicenter is located somewhere else, at a void which is unbearable to the senses, one which this poetry is astutely aware of and which it mollifies with a consistently paganistic use of language. This courageousness, transplanted from the existential into the poetic, with linguistic preciseness and due self-constraint, so that the poems are kept open-ended, is among the virtues of her poetry.’
Maria Topali, poet/ literary critic, Poiitiki magazine.

“ in her quest for quintessential sparseness, Iliopoulou exposes the means by which the gaze of perplexity, or aporia, becomes a speech that is variegated and aenigmatic.”
Titika Dimitroulia, literary critic, e-magazine poema.gr

“A poetry which is seductive and transparent yet decidedly dense, to the point of being aphoristic, with perfect competence in the rhythms of language and in the ritual resonance they may have for the reader.”
Alexis Ziras, literary critic, newspaper Avgi

| POEMS |

The book of the soil, (2011) proposes poetry as a strategy for life. It is formulated around the idea that the world we live in is not a completed work, nor a landscape to be looked at but a field of action. The too obvious visibility of things is possible because it touches a secret visibility within the body, it builds an internal echo. We do not throw our gaze to the world, we throw ourselves to the world through our gaze, as if we were making a leap into the void, parting with the familiar patterns of our intellect.  The book questions the nature of reality and invention, wonders about the gaze which thinks and the senses which seek the non-existent. There are two persons living there: they read the landscape as a text and at the same time they write it. They observe and inhabit it with their thought, their senses, their imagination and their memory. They ask: Why reality is never enough? In order to answer, they exchange steps with words, sight with blindness, body with earth, stone with voice. They relocate data, make unexpected associations, they build new formulations. Their gaze does not presuppose visibility, but it seeks and invents it. This search is structured like a language.

———————————
“On weakened legs I walked around the town the whole day. I took photographs”

The Hungarian photographer André Kertész with his walking (during thirty years) wore out  the network of streets of at least three cities. Eighty-five now, confined (by grief) to his apartment on Fifth Avenue in New York he photographs whatever is around him with a Polaroid.
With the delicate movements of a glass statue he changes his position in the room. He shifts the focal axis of his gaze. He doesn’t need to go anywhere.
He says: “I forgot to eat. I took photos. I started at daybreak and waited until dusk. I took photos again and again. I forgot my medicine.” Two years later in the book entitled From the Window you can see the city melting through the window pane, you can see the shadow of a hand menacing a shiny doorknob without ever reaching it, a diaphanous glass bust slowly digesting the naked trees of the park and the twin towers above the window sill. You can see what you don’t see.
He did come outside again. He photographed the spasm of a little girl running in the park and the half figure of a man in black disappearing. In Paris he photographed himself double closing his eyes and a crumpled half-opened white door reflecting in the mirror.
Every day he collects the brittle honey-less wasp nests
Restless wax catacombs of buzzing.
Every evening he empties them in his bottomless archive.
There’s no way he can stop this
It’s not a place that would be possible to leave.
Every formulation, every construction of death
Is resurrected in the buzzing that seeks still more.
More snow and networks of traces
More mirroring of the shadow on the whitewash
More walking with a strange suspension of joy
When he lets the sting prick him again and again.

Translation John O’Kane

The song of the little swimmer

His feet clutch at the cement
His breath is huge
An appeal for duration
Organized along the length of  his vertebrae.
Now the little construct of bones gathers itself
His immobility contains something of the lizard
(as if it were always there
but then in an instant invisible
the sight cannot get enough of it)
And now all of a sudden he falls
Upright like an angel
Likewise the birds hurl themselves in the sky
Every flight is a fall

Falling he wears a flower watch
Threaded on a string
He wears a necklace of bitter oranges
He often pierces things
He tests their resistance with a pocket-knife
Now himself a needle he penetrates the wind
This type of intervention is an act of:
Separation
Profanation
Investigation
Connection
Transformation
It never ends
What has no inside doesn’t open.

Falling he takes with him
The burning in his hand
In the center of his palm
Caused by a black insect
The pain is a visitor from the future
It passed through the unwritten map of the hand
Read it with the greatest scrutiny.
Weeping now
With the hand open
Showing it to the wilderness.
He was entirely the subject of a thing which
For lack of a more precise term
We will call: touch.

And falling he takes with him
The eyes of animals
And the invisible horses
Every day they ride them and love them
They squeeze them and caress them
Because of what they are:
Two cold rocks covered with moss.
There for the first time he will taste the vertigo of matter
That the abyss is not the black void but the impenetrable

And falling the tips of his toes finally
Will touch the water
And afterward he himself will sink at once
Without managing to grasp the boundary
And with closed eyes
He will see with every pore of his body
He will be uninvited in a foreign world
Completely spellbound
He will be frightened
He will want to stay there forever
He will want to make it last
He will emerge into the light defeated
He will try again
And he will relive this one day unexpectedly
He will be defeated
He will try again
And he will bite into the tissue of the proposition
“It’s never enough”
And he will dance.

Translation John O’Kane

How to advance in a field

Even though there’s no door we entered somewhere.
At once we came face to face with the process of transformation.
Tens of tiny birds (previously invisible) took flight from the ground
Touching the tops of the standing crops.
Thus making them breathe
Making them take part in the flight.
Every corn stalk it seemed gave birth to a bird.
At a certain moment they stopped.
Not one of them remained.
We didn’t know yet how to advance
With our question pale green in the hand.
Had it been a well we could have cast a stone
And waited for the response
Or it might have been enough to seize some elements
(plants, a little earth)
In order to draw our conclusions.
That is to say by an attack or theft.
We decided to forget ourselves in our little choreography.
Forgetting just like entering is a departure.
What ought we to have left behind?
Giant thorns with a saturated orange color
Turned their heads in the imperceptible air
As if they were about to move forward.
In the whole place as we were approaching
What we would call center
There was only the sense of beginning.
The field, a clenched fist that wouldn’t show.

Translation John O’Kane

The fox

In the sheath of light she appeared
Crossed the road
A small brown fox.
And again the next evening
Behind a bush fleetingly
And another time only her tail
Swept the darkness
And from then on
Her paws walking inside your eyes
Her warm furry body
Quivering between us.
Always passing never stationary.
“But who are you?” we asked
“I am” she said, “what is always in excess.”

Translation John O’Kane

Tainaron

Here the days do not  dissolve in the air
They drop into the water
Forming their very own layer
A surface of separation.
A hawk flies above the body of the summer
It dives again and again
Feeding and getting drunk from falling.
There is nothing here
Only crazy wind and stones
And sea
A random promise
Sharpens our lust with the blade of the moon.

When I arrived for the first time in this landscape of endings
The wind entered my mouth with such fury
As if I were its sole receptacle
Until all my words disappeared.

Every tree receives the wind differently
Some suffer others resist
(I met a palm tree that gave birth to the wind and distributed it
in every direction)
Others shake all over and change colors.
I of course am not a tree
I sat down and wore the wind as a coat
I bent my head and looked at the ground
From its crevices, the roots of thyme
With their hieroglyphics struggled to enter the light
Then the words came back.

Translation John O’Kane

The song of Eurydice

Keep your promise Orpheus
Look at me
Cultivate with your gaze
The meadow of my wandering
Dig for me the journey with
The stiletto of your eyes
Cast your net and
Draw it up empty
Gather in the drops:
In each one
My face will be mirrored
I am the border which continuously recedes
The guardian of distance
And your song Orpheus
Is distance.
Don’t leave anything untouched
Whatever thing you touch
Will never become your own
Every touching all the more foreign
The more foreign all the more gripping
And ready to touch you back
As it alone, knows how
To start up the dissolution machine

And with a holding of your breath
All the blurred red takes you in.
Hold on to the breathless void and weave it.

Translation John O’Kane

Asylum is a work of many voices. The persons talking could be distinct or  transformations of the same person. I imagined the book as a house, an Asylum which could host, receive and resound with these voices. One of the most fascinating things about poetry (art) is that it literally creates more space. Vital space where you can stand or speak from or explore. With this work, I am also interested in exploring the myth making power of art. Since we no longer share common myths , art is the only territory for renegotiating mythical material.

Penthesileia

I

They can call shadows an overcoat
but still I am naked under the tree
whose own shadow slithers
like a snake. Stay and it will bite
like water, bite like marble but not
like pine needles or sand. Those
are different nests. They are chance
drifting like strands in air.

II

In the land of shadows
naked things wait.
Not to jump you or rush you.
They have softer ways
to break and tatter you.
With indiscernible sounds,
imperceptible movements
they inhabit you.
They learn you so well
you become a passage
you will never be able to pass.
Their anonymity is the poison of this world.
I have learned how to enter.
I have become a tamer of still beasts.
I am no nun
I don’t eat leaves
I don’t rub my lips on hard bark
Or raise my eyes to an invisible sky
I chew on the plant of silence
I set a snare of  bulrush for the shadow and strangle it
I suck its breath
I let its song of mercury drip into my ears.

Translation by Ryan Van Winkle

Here there everywhere forever

I do not cultivate my garden in depth
I am only trying to cover the surface
Therefore, I plant footsteps.
If you strip waiting of all expectation
What is there left?
A constant presence.
To be sure, in order to be invariably present
You ought to learn to be absent.
Myself, I picked out a white dress.
Others invented different devices
For disappearing:
A bee-keeper’s outfit, for instance.
Yet others, set themselves up inside a window-frame
and stayed stock still.
It appears static, but it’s not.
Duration is to blame, which crystallizes it.
The mechanism is:
Vibration
Abandonment
Faith
Annihilation
Joy
Not in that order
And without the feeling

 Translation by Konstantine Matsoukas

Mister T. is a book of apprenticeship in which the main character Mister T. became both my creation and my guide to poetry. The book is a series of incidents of Mister T.’s  life, most of them set in the enclosed environment of his home, from where others are absent and the furniture takes on the status of strange entities. (the book won the first prize for a new author by the prestigious literary journal “Diavazo”, 2007)

Waking up

Every day Mister T. wakes up inside a different person.
That is why he gets up very early.
Before dawn.
He climbs the steps of the moments and he goes into the bathroom.
There he begins to peel away the scales of night.
The frozen streets, the bays and piers, the thick foliage and the loops of branches/ the indecipherable texts, the bloodthirsty virgins, the flocks of birds.

Once he is completely naked
He lays his eyes on the mirror
The way someone hangs his coat on a hook.
But instead of eyes he has two fish.
Being a man of immense patience,
He lets the fisheyes swim in the mirror freely.

In those moments he experiences the purest dream.
The dream of being no one.
The most irredeemable solitude.
The pitch black crossword of the abyss.

An event that endows his features
With the quality we refer to as “depth”.
Shortly thereafter, the eyes return to their place.
Between them and the mirror a certain relationship has now evolved.
Thus, they may recognize one another.
translation by Konstantine Matsoukas

Mister T. by the sea

He picks up a pebble from the shore.
Notices the pebble has the remarkable property
Of not having an inside and an outside.
The two coincide.
As he cannot think of anything else,
He decides the pebble is an enemy to the world and throws it away.
The pebble’s fall creates the effect known as “ a hole in the water”.
Mister T. feels immense attraction and an inexplicable envy towards the pebble.

So, he picks up another and puts it in his mouth.
At first it is salty.
It is a sea- thing.
Shortly after that, it is nothing.
A hard lump of silence in his mouth, absorbing his voice.
Nevertheless, to his surprise he realizes
That even without a voice, he can still speak.

Evidently his invocations are granted.
A flock of sea- birds lands by his feet.
When they fly away they leave behind an illegible text.
Mister T. bends down and begins to study it at once.
translation by Konstantine Matsoukas

 The siren

The sheets are white pages.
Each night he writes, tirelessly.
Feverishly filling them
as they say poets do.

But in the morning the sheets are wild animals.
They are waves, a savage ocean undulating.
And from its depths a little siren often rises.

She softly looks at him and then
she takes her eyes out and offers them to him.
Two green glass marbles.
Mister T. doesn’t dare reach out.
But how he longs for their coolness and how his fingers
sway like sea-weed.
To touch them.

Her eyes would suck up all the dust
which is the hourglass of time.
They would turn blood into water
and lime walls into crystal.

Her offer is pending
but Mister T. keeps postponing it.
Who can bear to live in a transparent house?
translation by Konstantine Matsoukas

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2 Responses to ENGLISH

  1. Eman Hassan says:

    Hello Katerina, I don’t know if you remember me but I am the International Poetry Editor at Hayden’s Ferry Review, we met this summer in Athens. I’ve been trying to email you about submitting your work but I keep getting a failure notice can you please contact me when you have a chance? I can be reached at ehassan1@asu.edu or mandeman@gmail.com

    Thank you!
    Eman Hassan

  2. Pingback: Readers of the World: Greece (Olympic Edition) « The Reader Online

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