A Greek Ballad: Selected Poems

Michális Ganás, trans. from the Greek by David Connolly and Joshua Barley. Yale Univ., $38 (307p) ISBN 978-0-30023-334-6
In these sad yet ebullient poems, the first of Ganás’s to be translated into English, the poet and lyricist crafts verses that invoke the folk music he heard as a child, weaving the geopolitical events that shook Greece during that time as well as addressing more recent history. Selected and translated by Connolly and Barley, the poems progress chronologically and appear alongside the original Greek, offering a comprehensive introduction to the poet’s work, and a snapshot of the political upheaval he experienced (his family was forcibly removed from Greece in 1948, the end of the Greek Civil War, by retreating Communist forces). Ganás skillfully melds loss with love: “a body is not just an embrace/ It’s a homeland that will become foreign,” and “copperware tin-plated at Yannena/ like your laughter glints and sparks.” As noted in the preface, these translations evoke traditional Greek prosody, but even with an artful use of rhyme and half-rhyme, can only nod to it: “People/ places, they all look like strangers,/ in photos we took at other ages,” he writes in “In Haftia Lay Me to Rest.” The song-like quality of Ganás’ writing is unmistakable in places: “if I am to spend/ my life in slavery... I may as well be a slave of love.” Readers will find this a rich, rare view of a life spent in, or hoping to return, to Greece. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 09/11/2019
Release date: 09/01/2019
Genre: Poetry
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