Giorgos Seferis

Monday, June 21, 2010

One of the things I love most about Gmail is that it comes with this launchpad type homepage thing called iGoogle. On iGoogle you can customize your gadgets to see what you're interested in before you get to checking your emails. On mine, I have areas dedicated to the weather, previews of my inbox, a calendar, these really cooky googly eyes that follow your cursor around the page and, of course, I have various poetry and literary-related things.
Today, underneath my Daily Literary Quote section is this quote from Giorgos Seferis:
Don't ask who's influenced me. A lion is made of the lambs he's digested and I've been reading all my life.
Pretty powerful, if not a bit odd and a tad bit graphic, no?
The beautiful thing about this quote (other than the fact that every avid reader and writer is probably nodding their heads after having read it {and after having scribbled the quote down on a Post-It Note}) is that it is a perfect reflection of the best components of a Seferis poem.

I'll admit, until today, I had never heard of Seferis. A quick Google search, however, and I'm hooked on his lyricism. Writing in the latter part of the 1900s, Seferis embraces lyricism similar to Hughes. Except, I believe Seferis is more of a lyricist than Hughes ever was. The similarity is that they both embrace this delicate and beautiful method and marry it with the dirty, grit of life, of culture. (Think: Hughes' "Thistles".)

Another thing that links Hughes and Seferis is that both of them write about nature in powerful, almost terrifying ways. Although for Hughes, nature refers to the actual environment, the tangible, audible gutsy nature ... Kathleen Jamie's nature. With Seferis, nature is the nature of being. It is rooted in the Hellenic in this sense, embracing who we are, how we are, writing of it and not much else. In this sense, Seferis does for being and existence what Rilke does with ripening and developing.

This wasn't meant to be a lecture on Seferis, and I'm embarrassed to have gotten so carried away, having only sat with his work for less than three hours. Nonetheless, here is my favorite Seferis poem so far, "Lost Worlds".

Lost Worlds --Giorgos Seferis

How can you gather together
the thousand fragments
of each person?
What's wrong with the rudder?
The boat inscribes circles
and there's not a single gull.
The world sinks:
hang on, it'll leave you
alone in the sun.
You write:
the ink grew less,
the sun increases.
The body that hoped to flower like a branch,
to bear fruit, to become like a flute in the frost --
imagination has thrust it into a noisy beehive
so that musical time can come and torture it.

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