This poetry collection, translated from Greek to English, examines such topics as parenthood, love, and loss through the lens of Homer’s Odyssey.
Giannisi (Architecture/Univ. of Thessaly; Rhapsodia, 2016, etc.) opens her poem “Lotus-eaters I” with a quote from the aforementioned epic: “And those who ate the honeyed meat of the lotus / no longer desired for return, or to bring back news / but wanted only to remain with the others, the lotus- / eaters, contented to pluck the fruit, to eat and forget.” When Odysseus’ ship suffered harsh winds, he and his men ended up on the land of the lotus-eaters; the more lotus flowers the men ate, the more their desire to return home vanished. In Giannisi’s poem, she uses the flowers as a metaphor for the intoxicating seas of today’s Greece: “I’ll stay here forever next to the sea.” Like the Odyssey, this collection explores the search for home, although the narrator’s voyage isn’t as concrete as Odysseus’. Each poem’s theme is signified by its title, many referencing characters or concepts from Homer’s work and each bridging the gap between modern life and the epic. In “Penelope III,” for instance, named after Odysseus’ wife and the mother of their child, the narrator discusses the profundity of parenthood: “she worships her children / when they were little she’d take their plates / and finish their food / even now she eats the leftovers.” This collection, translated by Sneeden (Last City, 2018), also includes colorful imagery, such as the pounding of octopus, a common Greek meat-tenderizing practice, and men singing in a tavern. Giannisi accessibly waxes on more complicated ideas, such as the nuances of linguistics in her poem “Patroklos II”: “is it that language follows longing / or is it longing / that’s inspired by language?” The collection also reflects on some darker topics, including death, gluttony, and growing old (“time is a terrifying medicine”), but its purpose may in fact be to show that these aren’t mysterious subjects at all—they’re just a part of the process of life.
A nuanced, clear set of poems that seamlessly articulate homeward journeys—wherever one’s home may be.