Translator's Note

Gigi Papoulias

In 2019, I discovered the work of Greek poet Argyris Stavropoulos when his second poetry collection received a literary prize. He was born in the Spartan village of Vassaras, on the foothills of Mt Parnonas in Lakonia. He lives in Sparta, where he owned an independent bookstore for over 25 years. Stavropoulos’ latest work, a fourth collection, was published in February 2024, and it has already been honored with a poetry award. However, outside of Greece, his work is relatively unknown.

Stavropoulos’ poetry is shaped by the world he inhabits – the natural world of Mt Parnonas as well as the contemporary Greek reality and its layered history. Much of his work was written during the last decade, when Greece experienced a crushing financial crisis that greatly affected our lives. Stavropoulos’ work explores new viewpoints which reflect the personal and social changes that we all experienced.

In many of his poems, Stavropoulos uses the past to give new meaning to the present, an understanding that arises only after one has endured many of life’s struggles. His work includes themes of time, loss, grief, conflict, change – which are expressed in introspections that are rich in imagery that is often unexpected, other-worldly and stirring.

Some of his personal retrospections focus on the passage of time and remorse, but also include a sense of hopefulness – intimate reflections that are, at the same time, universal.

As a translator, I pay close attention to the use of language, the repetition of words or phrases, the cadence and effect it creates. In each translation, I aim to interpret the original tone, mood and atmosphere in order to capture the unique world that the poet has created. Greek is a language rich in layered meaning. I scrutinize the poet’s intention behind each word choice, in an attempt to preserve the same nuance of meaning in the translation.

I have been living in Athens for over 20 years, and I too, have roots in the same ancestral village as the poet. In my student years, I spent many summers in Vassaras. As a diaspora Greek, I grew up hearing stories about village life from my parents and grandparents – what they experienced there during WWII and the Greek civil war that followed.

As literary translation is a very close reading of a creative work and an attempt to gain a deep understanding of the writer’s thought process and intention, I believe this connection to a shared past and history strengthens my interpretation and perception of Stavropoulos’ work.

It is a great pleasure to share Argyris Stavropoulos’ poem, in English translation for the first time, in the hope that his voice may also resonate with you, and that his words and images stay with you long after your eyes have left the page.

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