Greek Canadian, Manolis Aligizakis is a poet of considerable lyrical achievements.
Born in Crete, he emigrated to Vancouver in 1973 where he worked in various fields as an iron worker, train labourer, taxi driver, and stock broker.
He went on to study English Literature at Simon Fraser University, and has had his articles, poems and short stories published around the world, with a number of his poems translated into various languages.
Most recently he was appointed an honorary instructor and fellow of the International Arts Academy and awarded a Master’s for the Arts in Literature.
But apart from having published many volumes of his own much-celebrated poems, Manolis has, for years now, devoted himself to preparing high-quality and nuanced translations of the works of Modern Greek poets.
Aligizakis’ translation George Seferis: Collected Poems was shortlisted for the Greek National Literary Awards, the highest literary recognition of Greece.
Now, however, he has graduated to a truly Herculean undertaking, one that opens the door for English-speaking readers to the work of many highly respected Greek poets who are mostly unknown outside their own country.
Poetry, such as these beautiful pages, was born in Greece and continues to grace the world with its beauty even today.
Aligizakis has compiled and translated Neo-Hellene Poets: An Anthology of Modern Greek Poetry, 1750-2018, a skeleton key to the poems of 60 Greek modern poets whose writings, it can now be noted, deserve a wider readership.
The deft and skilled translations that make up the anthology are supplemented by brief but informative biographical profiles of the subject poets, putting them on the map for English-speaking readers in a way that has never been done before.
We sat down with Aligizakis to find out more about the process of putting such an impressive volume of work together.
Dimitris Troaditis (DT): Firstly, can you tell us why you chose to put together an anthology of Modern Greek poetry in English? What would you say it contributes to the global arena of poetry?
Manolis Aligizakis (MA): There has never been an anthology of Modern Greek Poetry in Canada and this edition closes that gap. Since the day I translated the first poem from my mother tongue to English 12 years ago, I have dreamed of introducing Canadian readers (and English-speaking readers in general) to the riches of Modern Greek poetry through an anthology of selected representative Greek poems from the period of the Heptanesian School to today in my own translations.
DT: Given the large size of this volume, how long did the entire process take you to select the poems and translate them?
MA: It was a long three years of work however the resulted volume, 815 pages of beautiful poetry, is the most beautiful reward one could imagine. After a continuous three years of dedication to the anthology, I am finally able to present what I consider my best and most valuable translation work up to now, as well as my most valuable contribution to Canadian literature and to literature around the world in general. The book has been turned into an e-book as well that makes it available to young poetry readers who prefer that way of reading.
DT: Did you have a criteria in mind when selecting the poets and their writing?
MA: I tried to cover the poetic span of 250 years with poets representing each era-trend of Greek poetry. There were a few other poets whose works I would like to have included in this volume, but the distance and time difference between British Columbia and Greece created difficulties in communicating and, since a dozen poems each from 60 poets was already a substantial body of work to translate, I drew a line at what I had.
DT: What is the message you hope to communicate to the wider readership through undertaking such a huge task, and the subsequent outcome?
MA: The message of this book is rather simple: First to underscore that fact, that dedication and persistence always rewards one with the delightful result of accomplishment, and second, to remind the poetry readers all over the world that poetry, such as these beautiful pages, was born in Greece and continues to grace the world with its beauty even today and that makes this translator to bow before the invincible creativity of the Hellenic Pneuma and to wish it will continue offering its beauty to the world ad infinitum.