The process of translation is hypothetical, subjective, and elliptical. It prompts exchanges between languages, cultures, personal ideations, and inclinations, and demands a ‘digging deeper’ from the part of the translator who approximates the depths of a text with a searchlight, trying to convey, portray and rebirth.
In that sounds greek to me – Japanese & Greek Poetry of Grief lies such an exchange between Greek artist, curator, and researcher Dimitris Tsironis and Japanese female vocalist and experimental composer Fuji Yuki. Under the thematic umbrella of grief the two artists create a mirroring between two poets whose work is fascinated with the bittersweet happenstances of life, love, death, grief, sadness, nature and nostalgia. Kostas Karyotakis’s work has been innovative and influential to the later generations of artists in Greece and has been translated into over 30 languages. Balancing between lyricism, expressionism and symbolism, his poetry was a palette of at times sarcastic, at times reflective expressions of his personal frustrations with his era’s everyday and political life. Chūya Nakahara was a poet, active during the Shōwa Period. Like Karyotakis, Nakahara was an innovator of Japanese Poetry, whose work heavily influenced later generations. His poetry is quite obscure, conveying the pain and grief of life, using a free verse style, heavily influenced by French symbolist poetry. The two poets share some similarities in the confessional way they present their verses; this connecting thread may have brought them together in this anthology of grief.
Eight poems are treated in turn by Tsironis and Yuki as the two artists exchange verses and sounds. Tsironis undertakes the translation and reciting of Nakahara’s poems Never to Return, Beach of a Moonlit Night, Sad Morning, Evening and Sunlight while Yuki provides the soundscapes. Then Yuki translates and reads Karyotakis’s Ideal Suicide, Nostalgia, Critique, Agape, with Tsironis providing the backgrounds. A series of abstract drones, balancing between the experimental, electronic, electroacoustic and darker and noisier shades of soundscape, provide the atmosphere in which the verses are composed. Matching the theme of grief and pain, the music allows the voice to exist in compliance with the work’s vision and not in antithesis. The compositions convey a sense of loss and alienation, which can be found in the original recited works, but they add an interesting twist as the verses cross the borders of language and become inhabited by the artists’ voices, rhythms, sounds and intonations. This is not spoken word but an attempt to create a series of deviations from the format, resulting in a destabilizing intensity.
that sounds greek to me – Japanese & Greek Poetry of Grief offers an homage to Karyotakis and Nakahara while providing a set of original compositions that bring Tsironis’s and Yuki’s own interests, curiosities and exchanges to the foreground through text and sound. (Maria Papadomanolaki)