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Selected Poems

Kiki Dimoula; Translated by Cecile Inglessis Margellos and Rika Lesser

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Kiki Dimoula’s poetry—the most praised and prized in contemporary Greek literature—is a paradox, both mysteriously intricate and widely popular. Her magic lens defamiliarizes all that is familiar, compressing distances between far-flung realms, conflating concrete and abstract, literal and metaphorical, physical and metaphysical.  Exacting and oracular at once, Dimoula superimposes absurdity on rationality, caustic irony on dark melancholy.

This first English translation of a wide selection of poems from across Dimoula’s oeuvre brings together some of her most beguiling, arresting, and moving work. The demands on her translators are considerable. Dimoula plays with the Greek language, melds its levels of diction, challenges its grammar and syntax, and bends its words, by twisting their very shape and meaning. Cecile Inglessis Margellos and Rika Lesser, Dimoula’s award-winning translators, have re-created her style’s uncanny effect of refraction: when plunged into the water of her poetry, all these bent words suddenly and astonishingly appear perfectly straight.

Kiki Dimoula (1931–2020) was a full member of the Academy of Athens, one of three women ever to be inducted. Cecile Inglessis Margellos is a translator from French, English, and ancient Greek, a scholar, and a literary critic. Rika Lesser, twice the recipient of translation prizes from the Swedish Academy, is the author of four books of poems and seven books of poetry in translation.

“These beautiful poems are reflections of a cloudy sky in earthly words. Their rays of light, also, their reasons for hope."—Yves Bonnefoy

"One of the foremost and most original poets writing in Greek, Kiki Dimoula always surprises. These fine translations capture her subtle mastery of the poetic art."—Peter Constantine, translator of Sophocles’ Three Theban Plays

"Dimoula's work is at once accessible in its themes: notably grief, that of the widow in particular, mortality, an agnostic petitioning of the gods, and a complex interrogation of the universe. It is high time her work is made available in English."—Marilyn Hacker, author of Names and Unauthorized Voices

“Kiki Dimoula augments our perception of what is and why it cannot always be sufficient. Thanks to her skillful artificers, Cecile Inglessis Margellos and Rika Lesser, this generous selection from her main body of work is now open to the world.”—Stratis Haviaras, author of When the Tree Sings

“Translated by Cecile Inglessis Margellos and Rika Lesser, this selection of poetry spanning sixty years of Kiki Dimoula’s oeuvre records a continuous effort to understand, indeed to create the meaning of a hidden existence as a poet. The motif of the photograph and its relation to time, memory and loss is omnipresent here. I take extreme pleasure in discovering Dimoula’s surrealism of grammar and syntax, a consistent sensibility throughout the work in this fine new selection from the entire career of this great Greek poet.”—Richard Howard

Winner of the 2014 Greek National Translation Prize.
ISBN: 9780300141399
Publication Date: November 13, 2012
392 pages, 5 x 7 3/4
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