The Lions’ Gate
Selected Poems of Titos Patrikios
Titos Patrikios is a poet of witness and engagement. A member of the intellectual left in post-war Greece, he survived imprisonment, hard labor, censorship, and exile. He narrowly escaped death by firing squad, and once had to bury his poems to keep them from discovery by the authorities. Patrikios endured years away from his home country, Greece, and was displaced from his family and literary community. His style bears the marks of that pressure and of his persistent need to pursue what might suffice in spite of such predicaments. At times reminiscent of Hikmet, Neruda, and Milosz, Patrikios’s poems sound a note of defiant celebration. This poet’s ethos is utterly humanistic and his impulses are toward praise as often as they are toward protest.
Titos Patrikios belongs in the twentieth-century pantheon with Yiannis Ritsos, Nazim Hikmet, and Pablo Neruda. He writes out of a deep and anguished humanity; his work is earthy, unremitting, noble. The Lions’ Gate brings a significant Greek poet into English with exemplary care and clarity.
These fine translations, rendering a selection from some fifteen volumes of Titos Patrikios’s work over a period of 54 years, demonstrate why his voice has come to be recognized as one of the most compelling in Greek poetry since the Second World War. Heir to Seferis and Ritsos, he shares with these precursors the capacity to raise his personal vision and sensibility to a level that illuminates the tragic climate of his country in harsh years of civil war, dictatorship, exile, and disillusionment. During the course of his prolific career, the poet’s imagery blossoms from its surrealist roots into a brighter, simpler mode, an access to wisdom and human understanding that is without sentimentality but that offers the prospect of a certain resolution however contrary the times. That this development remains clear in this English version of Patrikios’s work is testimony to the persistent care and high quality of these translations.
The elegant translators have given us a perfectly fluent and flawless version of the poems of Titos Patrikios, a poet who is a mirror of five decades of Greek history. I am drawn most to the meticulous snapshot poems that catch a moment of love, politics, Greek life. Whitman’s poignantly acute Civil War poems come to mind. Here is an amazing example of the poet and his translators: “Every morning the sun rises behind the guardhouses / wearing filthy hospital pajamas, / crossing slowly the courtyard of the sky. / After so many years / it too has taken up the habits of the detainees.” (“Habits of the Detainees”) Patrikios is a sun and star figure in modern Greek poetry.
Utterly free of sentimentality or self-pity, Titos Patrikios’s poems have an edge honed by many difficult years of exile. How remarkable, then, that the predominant impression left by The Lions’ Gate is of joy—a joy no less radiant for being hard-won. “My flesh / always hurts when beaten, / always rejoices when caressed. / It hasn’t learned a thing.” (“Flesh”) Bakken and Konsolaki’s translations, poised and clear, do justice to the economy and force of the original Greek. This is a beautiful and heartening collection.
The verses feel at one contemporary and loaded with the weight of Greek poetic tradition.… Spare but evocative in their precision, these translations offer a voice that’s both accessible and complex.
Readers who appreciate the combination of idealism and irony in the work of Majakovsky, Hikmet, Heaney, or Biermann will appreciate Patrikios’s skepticism toward all authority and faith in human resilience.
The translators worked closely with the author and have put together an authoritative selection, capturing the tone, wit, and urgency of his style. Those who wish to double-check can find in the book the original (and perfectly legible) manuscript of fifteen poems. In addition to these intimate and ingenious illustrations, The Lions’ Gate comes with an introduction and notes. This wonderful edition honors the work of an important poet who remains active and relevant at the turn of the twenty-first century.
— World Literature Today
The Lions’ Gate introduces a significant voice in the world of Greek poetry to the English reader.
— Greek America
The Lions’ Gate
Early Poems (1948–1951)
The Conquest of Everest
From Exercises (1952)
From Dirt Road (1952–1954)
Earth and Sea
Facing Up to the Sky
From Years of the Stone (1953–1954)
Drafts on Makronissos
Another Day in Ai-Stratis
Frame for the Light
Habits of the Detainees
Night in the Tent
From Litigations (1955)
While They Speak
From Apprenticeship (1956–1959)
From Apprenticeship Again (1959–1962)
Elements of Identity
A Family Lunch
From Sea of Promise (1959–1963)
Via dei Coronari 123
The Other Town
Via di Tor Millina
Gare du Nord
From Deformities (1959–1963)
Persistence of a City
From Optional Stop (1967–1973)
Church of the Seven Sleepers
From Opposing Mirrors (1988)
A Town in Southern Greece
From The Pleasures of Extension (1992)
Appropriation of Statues
From Resistance of the Facts (2000)
The Young Researcher
The Final Evening of a Poetry Festival
From The Lions’ Gate (2002)
The Wiles of Odysseus
Of Pikes and Warriors
About Titos Patrikios
About the Translators
Titos Patrikios was born in Athens in 1928. He studied law at the University of Athens, and sociology and philosophy at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes and the Sorbonne, respectively. During the military dictatorship following the Greek Civil War he was sent to detention camps in Makronissos and Ai-Stratis, and later exiled to Paris in 1959 and again to Rome from 1967 to 1975. Patrikios has published fifteen collections of poetry and three books of prose. He received Greece’s National Prize for Literature in 1994. His poetry is well known and widely translated in Europe. This collection represents the most complete publication of his work in English.
About the Translators
Christopher Bakken is the author of Goat Funeral, and winner of the 2001 T. S. Eliot Prize for his book, After Greece. His poems, essays, and translations have appeared in The Paris Review, Gettysburg Review, Agni, Modern Poetry in Translation, Raritan, Lyric, and other publications.
Roula Konsolaki received degrees from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Now living in Crete, she does freelance work translating French and English into Greek. Her translations have been printed in Modern Poetry in Translation, Two Lines, Seneca Review, Literary Imagination, The Tampa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere.