A few weeks ago, I reviewed Twelve Poems About Cavafy, a short but wonderful collection by the Greek modernist poet Yannis Ritsos. Though he’s somewhat obscure in the English speaking world, there are a number of resources on the web for the curious reader. The Poetry Foundation has a nice biography of Ritsos with compelling details about his personal life and political struggles as well as an overview of his poetic career. The article also has a comprehensive bibliography of his original works, including those available in English translation.
For those who want to jump immediately to the work itself, HINTS: The Poetry of Yannis Ritsos is a wonderful collection of translations by Scott King. He began the project on the occasion of Ritsos’ 100th birthday in 2009. Fitting the blog format, shorter poems predominate here. The language is direct, portraying unpretentious, even mundane subjects, but with subtle undertones of mystery and lyricism. These translations are indispensable to the beginning reader interested in Ritsos but also a testament to his eclectic output over a long and eventful career.
In 1985, the mountaineer Joe Simpson, twenty-one thousand feet up in the Andes, fell off an ice ledge and broke his leg. Dangling uselessly from his ropes, he was left for dead by his climbing partner. Into his head, unbidden, came the Boney M. song “Brown Girl in the Ring.” He had never liked the song and was infuriated at the thought of dying to this particular soundtrack.
In literature, as in life, death is often attended by apparent irrelevance…
From How Fiction Works (2008)