He smiled at her
–so that the child would not remember pain–
where is the thick hair,
where’s the height?
Then she saw the smile
Still as tall
And love –
– translated by Panayotis Ioannidis
Korina Kaloudi published her first book Of course I am afraid of them in 2020 (Perispomeni Editions, Athens). The title’s “I” speaks throughout the book — but it is far from simply afraid of others. Witness the poem presented here: it is, of course, love that prevails and permeates it, as an older man smiles at a girl who wonders about his vanished features — until his smile confirms that all is not lost; far from it: love is now stronger.
The book opens with a two-line declaration (“addressed to whom?”, it is worthwhile to ponder): Looks like I lied to you / but that is how I knew to speak back then. Fear makes its first appearance in the third line of the second poem, “Still”: […] / And we’re fear’s fodder / In the dark / bundled and wild, / until we find / a worthy reason / to be born. Twenty-one pages later, we meet a brief untitled poem that could serve both as a negation of the book’s rather ominous title and a gloss on “Smile”: Love was / thicker / than the dark / How could I be afraid of anything?
This is a marvellous first book: it is made up of 31 poems that never exceed the single page, and in which the confessional never slides towards melodrama. The poet’s low but assured voice holds all her subject matter in admirable control, whether she talks about death, childhood, family — or ventures into the more slippery terrain of poetic pronouncements: They’ re neither mad nor brave / the ones who sought / to exit the circle // They’re only thirsty / and heard the river.
Korina Kaloudi was born in Athens in 1966 (so we may imagine that her first book matured over a considerable time; if only more poets followed this course — even to a lesser extent…) Of course I am afraid of them was published in French in the year of its first Greek printing, translated by Michel Volkovitch (Le miel des anges Editions). K.K.’s poems have appeared in print and online journals and anthologies; she has also contributed lyrics to three song albums.
Pictured: A photo by Cypriot artist Orestis Lazouras, released as promotional material for his solo exhibition at ERGO Collective in Athens. Read more here.