A Levant Journal (2007) by George Seferis, Reviewed by A.E. Stallings
“Poetry is that which is lost in translation, as Frost’s truism goes, but there is a corollary to be deduced from this – what comes across in translation is then the prose of the poem, the argument, the plot, the syntax perhaps, the thought if the thought is separate in some way from the sound. The prose of an ambitious poem is not negligible.”
To Greek readers, George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis are the two modern poets. According to a poet friend, Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke, Constantine P. Cavafy — her own favorite — is a much less discussed third. While Seferis clearly has his American fans — I was surprised to discover that Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot has some epigraphs from his work — my sense is that in the us he is not nearly as widely read as Cavafy. Certainly in my own case, having moved to Greece in 1999, I had read quite a bit of Cavafy, who no doubt appealed to my Classicist roots, but had only a peripheral impression of Seferis — the well-chosen handful of pieces from Keeley and Sherrard’s Voices of Modern Greece. Even so, they were harder for me to get any purchase on — I would often slip off their elusive modern surface. This has slowly changed. I kept going back to the poems, now wrestling with them in Greek, staking out more and more “discoveries” in what was still a difficult landscape. Perhaps if I had had a guide to his work in the context of his life and times, as offered by Roderick Beaton in A Levant Journal, I might have come round sooner.
Read full review here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org