PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
PNR266 Now Available
The latest issue of PN Review is now available to read online. read more
Most Read... Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
M. Wynn ThomasThe Other Side of the Hedge
(PN Review 239)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Drew MilneTom Raworth’s Writing ‘present past improved’: Tom Raworth’s Writing
(PN Review 236)
Next Issue Stav Poleg Running Between Languages Jeffrey Meyers on Mr W.H. (Auden) Miles Burrows The Critic as Cleaning Lady Timothy Ades translates Brecht, Karen Leeder translates Ulrike Almut Sandig
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This review is taken from PN Review 31, Volume 9 Number 5, May - June 1983.

SECULAR LITURGY Odysseus Elytis, Selected Poems tr. Edmund Keeley, Philip Sherrard and others (Anvil) £6.95 (Penguin) £2.95
Odysseus Elytis, The Sovereign Sun, tr. Kimon Friar (Temple University Press, Philadelphia) n.p.

Since Elytis received the Nobel Prize, a number of translations of his work have appeared in English, most of them in the nature of selected works. Kimon Friar is perhaps wise to give his volume a forty-page introduction, though it does not dispel the difficulty of relating a very untranslatable poet to a language which perhaps exposes his most bewildering qualities. The introduction to the Anvil selection tries to propose some points of reference: the tradition of modern Greek poetry in works which have not been entirely colonised by Europeans with historical axes to grind-the folk songs, for instance, the Eroto-kritos, the liturgy of the Church-are presented as more reliably national 'roots' than those of Classical or classicising literature. In other words, there is a distant realism and a variety of modes of expression which have nothing to do with the imaginings of, for example, a Matthew Arnold. And there are elements in Elytis which sustain this approach: the Axion Esti, which resembles liturgy in form, and to some extent in intention as well, since it balances on a type of faith, partly an exuberant trust in the relation between the world and the imagination, if indeed these are seen as distinct in the poem. And like some kinds of religious texts, it bases its trust on mystical signs or linguistic formulae. At the same time, however, the style of Elytis is in great part self-realisation and dramatic salvation, a personal history with its private symbols, which are loosely ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image