The clew paying out through his fingers, a deftnessthat would bring him back to her, its softness the softnessof skin, as if drawn from herself directly, the faintlabial smell, guiding him up and out, as some dampnesson the air might lead a stone-blind man to the light.
Asterios dead for sure, his crumpled horn, his muzzlethick with blood . . . So at Delos they stopped,Theseus and the young Athenians, and steppedup to the altar of horns to dance a puzzle-dance, its moves unreadable except to those who’d walkedthe blank meanders of the labyrinth.And this was midday: a fierce sun, the blazeof their nakedness, the glitter of repetitions, a dazzlerising off the sea, the scents of pine and hyacinth . . .
Well, things change: new passions, new threats, new fears.New consequences, too. Nowadays, we don’t think muchabout Theseus, the Minotaur, Ariadne on the beachat Naxos, staring out at the coming years.But people still dance that dance: just common folk,those criss-cross steps that no one had to teach,at weddings and wakes, in bars or parks,as if hope and heart could meet, as if they mighteven now, somehow, dance themselves out of the dark.
by David Harsent
'The Crane Dance' is copyright © David Harsent, 2012, and reprinted from the book In Secret: Versions of Yannis Ritsos, published by Enitharmon Books in 2012.
Notes from Enitharmon:
Yannis Ritsos (1909–1990) is one of Greece's finest
and most celebrated poets, and was nine times nominated for a Nobel
Prize. Louis Aragon called him 'the greatest poet of our age'. He wrote
in the face of ill health, personal tragedy and the systematic
persecution by successive hard-line, right-wing regimes that led to many
years in prison, or in island detention camps. Despite this, his
lifetime's work amounted to 120 collections of poems, several novels,
critical essays, and translations of Russian and Eastern European
poetry. The 1960 setting, by Mikis Theodorakis, of Ritsos's epic poem Epitaphios was said to have helped inspire a cultural revolution in Greece.
David Harsent's In Secret gives versions of
Ritsos's short lyric poems: brief, compressed narratives that are
spare, though not scant. They possess an emotional resonance that is
instinctively subversive: rooted in the quotidian but at the same time
freighted with mystery. The poems are so pared-down, so distilled, that
the story-fragments we are given – the scene-settings, the tiny
psychodramas – have an irresistible potency. In Secret was the Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation for the Winter Quarter, 2012. You can find In Secret on the Enitharmon site here, and read a short article by David Harsent about Ritsos from The Guardian here.
Enitharmon Press takes its name from a William Blake
character who represents spiritual beauty and poetic inspiration.
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has been associated with such figures as Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter
and Kathleen Raine. Enitharmon also commissions internationally renowned
collaborations between artists, including Gilbert & George, and
poets, including Seamus Heaney, under the Enitharmon Editions imprint.
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