A poem by Roxani Nikolaou


Roxani Nikolaou

Years had been pregnant with this morning

Alien light, soundless nail on the body
the horizon is scanning my name.

Softly the window sings

– How beautiful, the hedge with the rotting leaves
how lovely, the homeless birds’ song!

— translated by Panayotis Ioannidis

In August, birds were being asked “how they’d like their invisible garden”; come September, they’re homeless but happily singing next to rotting leaves.
In Roxani Nikolaou’s second poetry book, to which this poem belongs, not only are birds homeless, but houses and night itself are sleepless; colours are being uprooted; gardens lie in ruin; and death reigns. Although this is a dark book, it is also full of quasi-magical potentialities: “music lights up dark trees” and “words approach the voice’s blood”. In another poem, R.N. humbly — and very appropriately — likens (her) poetry-writing to her parents’ breaking shells to release almonds or slitting olives to make them permeable to brine and vinegar — and thus, eventually edible. However, her faith in the supreme — and not simply nourishing — powers of poetic diction is absolute: the book’s motto reads “– A poet / and my kingdom entire! / Thus cried that king / for he was doomed.” Poetry seems, after all, in her hands, to indeed function as a Clipper; this is what Wikipedia and the book’s back cover have to say about its title: “[it is] used to select, for purposes of transmission, that part of a signal […] which lies above or below [a] predetermined […] level” — of intensity, and of expressivity.

R.N. was born in 1965 in Kolossi, Lemessos, Cyprus. She studied Archaeology in Heidelberg and Stage Design in Athens. From 2005 to 2007, she was the editor in chief of the arts and culture magazine “Psihadi”. Her poems have been published in print and web journals, in Cyprus and in Greece. Her first poetry book, Poems 1991-1999, came out in 2000; Clipper followed in 2018 (published by Technodromion, Lemessos) and was shortlisted for Cyprus’ National Poetry Award. A third collection, Liar Sleep (poems, 2000-2008), as well as several prose pieces remain unpublished so far.

Pictured: The installation Reflections (2019) by artist Rafael Jilavian, on show at the inaugural exhibition of Kato, a new independent art space in Thessaloniki, Greece. Read more here.