A poetry collection by Laina (Mikti Techniki, 2012, etc.), translated from Greek to English by McCann, explores the nuances of time and women’s power.
“It was summer from shore to shore / I say this even though seasons have no meaning anymore,” muses a lighthouse keeper in the poem “Narration.” The first section of this collection, “Time,” offers imagery reflecting the march of time (“It blooms slowly, silently / the melancholic, comic tree”) and also explores its antithesis, stillness, offering grounding and emotional connections to the elusive notion of time’s passage. This expressive collection moves into different territory in the second section, “Witches.” From Circe in Homer’s Odyssey to the Wayward Sisters in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, witches have served as supernatural beings, as evil, twisted characters, and, in some cases, as symbols of female empowerment. Laina deftly expands on this latter notion. In “Poros Minor,” the speaker describes a beautiful woman with glowing red eyes that “will mimic again the grace and the strength of a sword.” This theme recurs through the rest of the collection; in an unnamed poem, the speaker describes living a life of “malice and deceit” but powerfully concludes by reminding herself to “let no man overpower me.” The third section, “Travels,” especially shines with its poignant storytelling (“He left the jug down by the river / and recollected everything / creaks and murmurs that changed color around the houses / deep voids in the sky / but he didn't leave because / his story had died”). However, opaque prose slows the collection’s momentum at times. McCann’s translations are impressive and capture Laina’s nuance, but the word “rose,” for instance, gets lost. In Greek, there are separate words for the color (used in the original title poem) and the flower, while English has one for both, making the meaning of the translated poem hard to discern: “Fear / ever worse / rose fear / before what, of what / fear’s fear / fear, lest it paralyze you.” That said, the collection’s strength lies in its ability to challenge the reader, and its study of time offers new ways of imagining the intangible.
A moving, vivid collection of verse.