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Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Yannis Ritsos: In the Depths (You Can't Take It With You)


Kampffischweibchen (Betta splendens) [Siamese Fighting Fish], türkis/pink
: photo by Defender Regina, 1 April 2010

He saw the diver stir deep down in the water
with soft, carnal movements. Beyond
he saw the clay penis and the statue's feet
stepping firmly on the sea floor. And he also saw
the clay woman spread out, waiting,
one knee slightly raised, with a red,
totally red fish on her belly. Except
that the seaweed didn't move, there was no seaweed,
and the coin they threw in from above descended slowly
until it stopped a hand's width from the woman's mouth.

The Egyptian water goddess Taweret, goddess of childbirth and fertility, following the figure of Wadjet, the cobra; faience figure, Late Period: photo by Jon Bodsworth, 10 December 2007 (British Museum)

Shopping trolley lying six metres below the surface near Tanker Jetty, Esperance, Western Australia: photo by Ian Bailey, 2006

Coins from the Hackney Hoard with Jar. The coins from the Hackney Hoard were found deposited in this glass Kilner jar: photo by portableantiquities, 13 July 2007

Yannis Ritsos (1909-1990): In the Depths, 1971, from The Wall Inside the Mirror, translated by Edmund Keeley in Yannis Ritsos: Exile and Return, Selected Poems 1967-1974, 1985


Anonymous said...

This was an excellent way to begin today, the gateway to High Summer. It will be scorchingly hot soon, with no chance at all of rain. Before switching television on (where language and images are both flattened and repeated to make everyone recite from the same script), it's much easier to recall how mysterious real mysteries are. Our own two bettas, Rainbow and Ruby, seem aware of this, regarding each other from their neighboring bowls, mentally composing final battle plans. Plumbing the depths of the Hackney Hoard, with its odd cast of characters and events, including a "psychogeographer", reinforces this. This particular abandoned shopping trolley is icing on the cake.



"In the Depths" (deep) indeed -- who knows what treasures are down there? Sometimes a fossilized sand dollar (or, more likely, a piece of one) found washed up from the channel here, a real treasure. . . .


grey whiteness of sky against invisible
ridge, flycatcher calling whip WEEDEEER
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

with respect to co-ordinate,
motion become “first”

equation, three-dimensional,
takes away from space

pink grey sky on horizon next to point,
osprey with fish flapping toward ridge

TC said...

Ritsos poems pop up in the back of the mind like bubbles from the mouth of a sunken statue. This one is from the period of the Junta of the Colonels; the poet had been allowed to return from house arrest and exile on an island to internal exile and elective seclusion in Athens. The petrified figures in many of the poems seem to express this condition of isolation and estrangement, giving out mute cries, as figures in dreams.

He lived and suffered through more than one dictatorship. The turbulence of modern Greek history complicates and deepens his work from the mid-30s on...

(A cinematic registration of some of the same scenes of historical terror might be the great Theo Angelopoulos film The Traveling Players.)

Anonymous said...

"pop up in the back of the mind like bubbles from the mouth of a sunken statue." Amazing image. I saw that picture of Ritsos' tombstone early this morning and it made me anticipate our own hot, hot weather here. Obviously, Ritsos' looks even hotter and brighter and made me think of something you wrote several weeks ago about summer in Athens.