“Before Lyricism is a captivating collection of poetry as well as an awe-inspiring feat of translation. Eleni Vakalo makes her readers hear and see the images written on the page; the book creates its own world around you as you read. Vakalo pushes the Greek language to its limits, stretching its syntax and playing up its room for ambiguity. Karen Emmerich spent over a decade translating these poems and finding ways for English, normally so resistant to ambiguity, to open up and allow for a similar, unsettling abstraction. The end result is nothing short of miraculous and an absolute pleasure to read in English translation.”

The 11th annual Best Translated Book Awards were announced this evening at the New York Rights Fair. The Invented Part by  Rodrigo Fresán, translated by Will Vanderhyden, won for fiction. Before Lyricismby Eleni Vakalo, translated by Karen Emmerich, took the prize for poetry.
Winner of the 2018 Best Translated Book Award, Before Lyricism includes six book-length poems: “The Forest” (1954), “Plant Upbringing” (1956), “Diary of Age” (1958), “Description of the Body” (1959), “The Meaning of the Blind” (1962), and “Our Way of Being in Danger” (1966). Each of these, apart from “Plant Upbringing,” was published as a separate book, which Vakalo herself designed. (“Plant Upbringing” was originally included in the volume Wall Painting, of which Vakalo later repudiated all but this single long poem.) For Vakalo, these poems formed a larger, accretive whole, which she titled Prin Apo Ton Lyrismo (Before Lyricism). By bringing these poems together under a single cover, Before Lyricism allows us to see the complex web of intertextual relations that bind these books together. Meanwhile, by bringing these poems into English, this volume will enrich not only our knowledge of this key period in Vakalo’s career, but English-language readers’ understanding of modern Greek poetry as a whole.
Plants have a different upbringing than people
Their not moving isn’t unique
Nor their not committing suicide
Plants are perpetual revolutionaries
Just think how they grow during the hour of the moon