El silencio se volvió un canto: la poesía de Jenny Mastoraki

Ice flower 16_January 19th 2016_Toronto

Jenny Mastoraki (Τζένη Μαστοράκη) (n. 1949, Atenas, Grecia)
. . .
Tres poemas Sin Título (del poemario Peajes (1972)):
Entonces el caballo de Troya dijo
No, declino hablar con la Prensa.
Y ellos dijeron ¿Porqué?
Y dijo que él sabía nada de la matanza.
De todas formas,
siempre comía ligero en la tarde
y en su juventud
trabajó un período
como poni de madera en un tiovivo.
. . .
Cantaban una canción, una canción toda suya.
Pues, de sus camisas abiertas,
el barro de su patria,
las montañas, los olivares,
vertía palas por palas.
Y, de sus templos,
el anhelo se evaporaba
como se escapa el vapor
de la tapa de una maceta
y transmite ese vapor
algo de la tristeza del frijol
y el sabor amargo de la achicoria silvestre.
. . .
El silencio que crié
entre cuatro paredes,
en etapas tempranas
estuvo destinado a
volverse una canción
– profunda, oscura,
como agua en un pozo de los deseos;
como el bolsillo en el mandil de mi madre.
Dar a cada uno su porción.
Estirar como el gran mensaje de las grullas
en las calles, en las plazas,
en los urinarios públicos,
y en las salas de espera de las estaciones de tren.
Una canción como un salmo del Domingo de Ramos;
canción de pan y agua;
un canto de gente;
el canto de .

. . .

Los sótanos (del poemario Cuentos del Piélago (1983))
Las casas que construyeron durante esos días estuvieron excavados debajo – y llamaban esos espacios “sótanos” o “bodegas”. La gente almacenaba cosas raras adentro: ropa vieja, zapatos, joyas, bello cristal, trajes tiesos de novia; álbumes, trozos de muebles con nombres difíciles – y, frecuentemente, algunos que amó – cuidó – sinceramente. En ese caso, les besó fuerte pues les encerró y prontamente tapió las puertas para que ellos (los muy queridos) no podían abrirlas y salen.
Dado que no era una salida y las paredes se mantenían firmes, entonces esos amores viejos duraron bien – y la gente supuso que ellos eran inmortales.
. . .
Negociaciones por el matrimonio
Durante ese tiempo todo brilla – resplandece – como en las películas griegas.
Las negociaciones matrimoniales entre mi encanto y la buena señorita – y estoy esperando afuera…siempre miedosa del derramamiento y de la música, particularmente cuando tocan muy fuerte y todos abren y cierran las bocas sin escuchar nada. Entiendes, ¿no? – que es bueno cuando alguien no habla – en esas horas – en voz alta, fuerte, porque es posible despertarte y te encuentres en los escalones – en el pleno verano – llevando pantalones blancos, y bajo de una estatua. Esta noche estoy considerando volverme la chica-acróbata que puede arrojarse de una peña. Inventaré unas palabras de jerigonza para confundirles. Pero, aún así, comprenderás que éso es mi despedida, también mi motivo hacerlo. Y bien – todos y cada uno buscarán su propio consuelo en la dulzura mullida o en lo hondo de las profundidades…
. . .

Versiones en español – de los poemas traducidos en inglés del griego: Alexander Best

. . .

Jenny Mastoraki (Τζένη Μαστοράκη) (born 1949, Athens)
Three poems – Untitled (from her collection Tolls, published in 1972)
Then the Trojan horse said
no, I refuse to see the Press
and they said why, and he said
he knew nothing about the massacre.
After all,
he always ate lightly in the evening
and in his younger days
he worked a stint
as a wooden pony on a merry-go-round.
. . .
They sang a song all their own.
out of their open shirts
the soil of homeland,
mountains, olive groves
would pour in shovelfuls.
And from their temples
longing would evaporate
the way steam escaping
from the lid of a pot
takes with it
something of the sadness of the bean
and the bitter taste of wild chicory.
. . .
The silence which I nurtured
between four walls
was destined early on
to become a song.
A deep, dark song
like water in a wishing well
and like the pocket
of my mother’s apron.
To give to each their share.
To spread out like the great message of cranes
in the streets, in the squares
in the public urinals,
in the waiting rooms of train stations.
A song like the Palm Sunday liturgy
a song of bread and water
a song of people
my song.
. . .
The Cellars (from Tales of the Deep (1983))
The houses they built in those days were left hollow underneath and they called the spaces cellars. They kept odd things in them: old clothes, shoes, jewels, beautiful glass, stiff wedding gowns and albums, bits of furniture with difficult names, and quite often some people they dearly loved. When this was the case, they kissed them hard and locked them in, and then quickly bricked up the doors so they couldn’t open them and leave.
Since there wasn’t an exit and the walls held tight, the old loves lasted well and everyone took them for immortal.
. . .
Translations from the Greek originals © Karen Van Dyck
. . .
Marriage Negotiations
At such a time everything sparkles as in Greek movies, the marriage negotiations of my sweetheart with the good girl, and I wait outside always fearful of bloodshed and music, especially when they play very loud and everybody opens and closes his mouth without being heard. You understand, at such hours, it’s good for somebody not to speak in a loud voice, because you can wake up and find yourself in mid-summer on the steps, wearing white trousers, under the statue. I think tonight I’ll become the girl acrobat who throws herself from the rock. I’ll make up some kind of gibberish to confuse them. But you will know that it is farewell and why I did it, and anyway, each one seeks his own comfort on the soft or in the deep.
. . .
Translation from the Greek original © Nanos Valaoritis (2003)

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Jenny Mastoraki: “Bumping against marble busts”: poems translated by Eleni Fourtouni

Ice flower 15_January 19th 2016_Toronto
Jenny Mastoraki (Τζένη Μαστοράκη) (born 1949)
How I Managed To Square The Circle Of Dreams In The Shape Of A Window At The Top Of The Stairs In A Tenement House
a. The Poet
The poet’s work
has simply got to be difficult.
Personally, I know nothing about it.
My whole life long’s been spent
writing long, desperate letters
about drought-stricken neighbourhoods
which I’ve sealed
inside bottles
and chucked down the sewers.
. . .
b. Birth
I sprouted in a hothouse
made of concrete.
The voice of a cow feeds around
inside my intestines.
I’ve limited myself in such a
vegetable state.
I haven’t spoken.
I haven’t provoked anyone.
I’ve always simply thrived
in places
where dictionaries consistently
denied my existence.
. . .
c. Marble Busts
I don’t know what I would’ve done
if things hadn’t turned out
this way.
I might’ve written
history books
for the third grade.
And then again I might’ve surpervised pebbles in public parks.
In either case
the hands are useless.
I’m always bumping
against marble busts.
. . .
d. Theorem
Now then, I’ve shown you
how I managed to square
the circles of dreams
in the shape of a window
at the top of the stairs
in a tenement house.
The modest ceremony’s over.
You’re asked
to disperse
. . .
How did it happen?
How did we get to this place, anyway?
What did we put into it and what are we getting out of it?
We’re lugging on our backs
a name that doesn’t belong to us –
endless roads
that were never our own.
They examine us like a new shoe
that someone else is wearing
while we were dreaming
of huge leaps over the seas
– in drought, you drink – as if to say
look, but don’t you touch!
How did they come to squander us this way?
We paid out every last dime to them
in withholdings!
We who never owned much in the first place
gave up all our rights in advance…

. . .
The day’s gone
The day’s gone
and you’re left with a telephone coin,
not knowing who to call
to say
that outdoors the sunset’s scattering
to the weathervanes.
You’re left with a scrap of paper
clutched in the hand
on it a mangled message.
So you stand there with the coin in your palm
You stare at it: on one side
a profile of Justice
on the other, the herald’s wand of Hermes –
symbols whose meanings
you can’t even begin to see.
. . .
Translations from Greek into English: Eleni Fourtouni (from her book Contemporary Greek Women Poets, published in 1978 by Thelphini Press)
. . .
The poems above were selected in the late 1970s by the translator from Jenny Mastoraki’s first collection, Right of Passage, published by Kedros in Athens. (A bookstore by the same name was also run by Nana, the woman who owned the publishing business.) It was Nana who steered Fourtouni in the direction of Greek women poets at a time when Greek poetry was still often regarded as mainly the literary – and socio-political – endeavour of men. Jenny Mastoraki had been at the University of Athens when she became active in the student resistance/uprising at the Polytechnic Institute in 1973 against the Greek Seven Years’ Dictatorship (1967-1974), also known as the Régime of the Colonels – very much connected to the Cold War politics between the Soviet Union and the U.S.A. that developed after the end of the Second World War.

A poet and translator, Jenny Mastoraki has published several volumes of poetry and has translated into Greek novels and essays by authors from English, German, Italian and Spanish. In 1989 Columbia University awarded her the Thornton Wilder Prize for her translation opus. She has not published her poetry “conventionally” (in paper-book form) since her 1989 collection With A Crown of Light. But the latest generation of poets circulates her work via blogs and websites. Mastoraki’s poetry and place has been described thus: “[It] treats history with irony and…describes family situations with acid humour…She is the offspring of a difficult era, political upheavals and crushing social problems.” (Quotation from editors Nanos Valaoritis and Thanasis Maskaleris, 2003)

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