Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Elytis' poetry has marked, through an active presence of over forty years, a broad spectrum. Unlike others, he did not turn back to Ancient Greece or Byzantium but devoted himself exclusively to today's Hellenism, of which he attempted - in a certain way based on psychical and sentimental aspects - to build up the mythology and the institutions. His main endeavour has been to rid his people's conscience from remorses unjustifiable, to complement natural elements through ethical powers, to achieve the highest possible transparency in expression and to finally succeed in approaching the mystery of light, "the metaphysic of the sun" -
--The Nobel Prize site on Odysseus Elytis

"So then, what we called 'sky' is not; 'love' is not; 'eternal' is not. Things do not
Obey their names."
--from "Verb the Dark" by Odysseus Elytis

What's most interesting about this ongoing discussion I'm having with other poets about COLLECTEDS / SELECTEDS is what I call the "arc" implied by the collection of all of a poet's poems. The determination of such an arc is art, itself; defining that arc cannot be scientific. It's impossible, which is why it fascinates.

How does a poem get made, indeed!

Well, I just got an email from Ernesto that simply made my day! Hope you don't mind me sharing, Ernesto, but I love his description of that "arc" -- that "narrative" revealed by all of a poet's poems -- that "pilgrim's progress"!

[Do picture Moi drawling out "peeeel-grim" here in my John Wayne accent...]

But, Peeeel-grims, this ain't why why Ernesto made my day. Apparently, he recently picked up Odysseus' Elytis' COLLECTED (from John Hopkins UP) and he noted as an aside that Elytis's "Diary of an Invisible April" reminded him so much of my Gabriela Silang poems (published in Menage a Trois with the 21st Century).

Woooo. Ernesto couldn't have known this, but Elytis was one of first five poets to ever make me think about poetry -- this was years...decades... ago, before I even thought of writing my own poems! But I haven't really read Elytis in years; he certainly was not in moi conscious mind when I was writing those Gabriela poems. Now, out of the blue comes this comment from someone who don't know of my history with Elytis that he thought my poems and Elytis' poems shared some empathy.

First, it's an honor. Second, autobiography here is We are also what we Read...

I'm also glad that I have a chance to share my love for Elytis. I remember when I first began strolling through the poetry world. As a newbie poet, I once mentioned Elytis' name to someone and he scoffed and said I should pay attention to Cavafy instead. As if, what, there can only be one Greek poet to include in the roster of what a U.S.-American poet should read? Well, wait, that's another story for another day. For now, I'm off to check out his COLLECTED and refresh my memory over this undeservedly still too obscure poet. I aspire to lucidity and often fail, whereas Elytis' poems show how he has mastered what he has called "the metaphysics of the sun."