- Greece -
Pavlina Marvin was born in Athens in 1987 but grew up in Hermoupolis of Syros. She studied Ηistory at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. She completed her PhD thesis on Greek national book policy (2023). She studied Directing at the National Theatre of Greece (2020-2023). She was a co-publisher and co-editor of Teflon poetry magazine (2008-2011). She studied poetry in the biennial workshop of the Takis Sinopoulos Foundation (2007-2009). Her first book, “Stories from all around my world” was published by Kichli Publishing (2017) and was awarded by the Hellenic Authors Association with the prize «Yannis Varveris». She is a member of Book History Lab (BHL, National and KapodistrianUniversity of Athens). She worked as a research historian, author, performer, director, team animator, translator and coordinator of international book fairs in several countries around the world. As a writer and performer, she has been invited to participate in a range of interdisciplinary arts projects and festivals, in Greece and abroad. Part of her work has been translated in English, French, German, Italian, Arabic, Spanish, Bengali, Latvian, Finnish and Serbo-Croatian.
Stories from all around my world (Kichli Publishing, 2017)
Miracles at Polyphemus | Turn off the lighthouses for Ivan Ismailovic (Kichli Publishing, 2022)
“80 years ago – 80 years from now”, performance, Vanessa Kisuule & Pavlina Marvin (British Council, Athens 2019)
Playing with Homer’s “Odyssey” (2h experimental workshop for children 8-12 years, Embassy of Greece in Beijing, August 2019)
“Verge” – Poets’ Agora annual event. Yiannis Doukas, Pavlina Marvin, Alicia Stallings (Poets Agora, Athens 2019)
Bio-mechanical poetry festival (Chalkida, July 2018)
International Video Poetry Festival (Empros Theater, Athens, December 2018)
Entefktirio Literary Festival (Thessaloniki, December 2018)
Poetry on Stage (University of Brighton, April 2019)
SARDAM (Cuprus 2020, Athens 2020)
Punctum Festival (Riga, August 2021)
History of the labyrinth, performance at Tinos International Poetry Festival (Τinos, 2022)
Performances and Freedom of Speech Activities
Performance «Prostibulo Poetico» (Embros Theater, February 2013)
Performance «Greek women poets during the 20th century» (Thervantes Institute, March 2013, Festival «Grito de Mujer»)
H άνθρωπος / Ι anthropos (Gender and Literature, Performance Festival, Thessaloniki International Book Fair, May 2019)
Imagine all the people (writing groups and presentations with young migrants and refugees, PavlinaMarvin & Eleni Soukouroglou, Thessaloniki International Book Fair, May 2019)
Turn off the lighthouses for Ivan Ismailovic (videopoems, produced by Tria Kitra & Antigone Davaki, performed in several stages and festivals, 2018-2019)
Talking about Ithacas – C.P.Cavafy between Greece and China (Pavlina Marvin & Que Jianrong, Bookworm Bookshop, Beijing, August 2019)
A coat with all its flowers (Goethe Institut, Poetries of Life, Time to Listen, 2020 https://www.goethe.de/ins/us/en/kul/bks/zzh/poe.html )
Womanifesto (film-manifesto I & ΙΙ by Efi Spyrou, 2021)
Mauve Medusas Inerdisciplinary Festival for Literature and Gender (Athens, 2023)
Austerity Measures: The New Greek Poetry (ed. by Karen Van Dyck, Penguin 2016)
Kleine Tiere zum Schlachten (ed. by Adrian Kasnitz, Parassitenpresse 2017)
Dichtung mit Biss (ed. by Maria Topali and Torsten Israel, Romiosini 2018)
Viaggio Nella Poesia greca contemporanea | Ποίηση (ed. by Massimo Cazzulo, ETPbooks 2020)
Poete del Mediteraneo (ed. by Francesca Zaccone, 2021)
Aurinkokello (ed. By Riika P.Pulkkinen and Athina Rossoglu, Enostone Kustannus 2022)
2018 “Yannis Varveris” prize by Hellenic Authors Association
2017- Al -Azhar’s University Award for Young Greek Authors
Pavlina Marvin was quite well known and loved for her poetry, several years before her first book came out. Born in Athens but raised on Syros – her father’s Island – she has island blood from her Cypriot mother too. It may therefore not be entirely coincidental that her extended family (biological or devised) and a rich web of places (visited in the real or the imagined life) figure in many of her poems, prosepoems, and short prose pieces that make up her debut, Stories from all over my World [Istories ap’ olon ton Kosmo mou] (Kichli Publications, 2017), which won her the Greek Writers’ Society Yannis Varveris Award for a poetry debut in 2018. In this book, her gift and love for storytelling (which she has also studied as a performing art) are apparent throughout, not least in the poem presented here, as are her othervirtues: a fearless handling of emotions, never veering into sentimentality; plot and language inventiveness; use of the telling detail. These characteristics are given a further twist in her second book, in which she wisely decided to limit herself in both form (a cycle of sonnets) and ‘place’ (about the tenants of ‘her’ block of flats) (Panayotis Ioannidis, https://und-athens.com/)
Pavlina Marvin’s topical, close-to-the-bone work is now being recognized by the mainstream, but she began very much as an outsider and one of the girl gang who created Teflon. Born in Athens, she grew up in the city of Hermoupolis on the island of Syros. Her poems, book reviews, and short stories have been published extensively in print and online. (Karen Van Dyck, Austerity Measures)
Her first writing venture, Stories from all around my world, is “a book about the art of saying goodbye to time, to bodies, to the real, to ourselves”, “a book that wonders about the usefulness of the absurd”. Asked about “Teflon”, a poetry magazine she co-published, she explains that “it dealt unprecedentedly with issues that seems to have been up to that time of no interest to the literary community in Greece”, while “it re-approached issues from the viewpoint of a new generation which carried its own expressive particularities, reversals and concerns”.
As for the National Book Center of Greece, her doctoral thesis focuses upon, she comments that “EKEBI dealt with numerous important issues, most of which remain widely unknown”, adding that in her opinion, “there has been no national policy for the book, in the sense of setting mid- and long-tern strategic goals and developing relevant investments”. She concludes that “in every age there are remarkable poems and noteworthy poetic actions”, and that poetic creating is “a thread that links both the perceptible and the imperceptible, the real and unreal levels of this wonder that we call ‘life’”. (Athina Rossoglou, Reading Greece|Greek News Agenda)
(Which of us perished first) / (Ποιος μας εχάθη πρώτος)
When my husband returned it was a hard winter,
The children didn’t know him, the stones had forgotten him.
I was the first to forget him, and his name too.
He crossed our threshold with empty hands.
Out of charity, I gave the stranger food to eat.
He asked me nothing about the thousand years we’d spent apart.
He asked nothing about his three younglings,
if they were hungry, if they were thirsty, if they went to school.
Off his plate jumps a cord, long and oily,
A cord, huge and strong, which wraps around his neck.
I pull the end of it, it strangles him, he dies.
The noose leaves him alone and jumps at me.
"Leave me," I say to it, "for I am of the underworld."
"Be thou dead," it says, "I’ll spoil thee still."
It wailed and tightened round my neck to undo me,
But my skin was tough, my veins were stumpy,
My blood was hard as snow, my breath hard as a lump of coal.
"Be thou a ghost," it says, "I’ll choke thee still."
"I'm not a ghost," I say, "I'm Helen."
"What kind of Helen are you, dead in the midst of Tymphaea?"
"Among the dead I’m dead, and Tymphaea is deader still."
No sooner had I spoken, it tied around my tongue—
"What do you want, you little noose," I ask, "what do you want of me?"
"I want to drag you to the foxhole by your tongue
That you may find no tongue, no dirty talk against our village."
"Run, noose, to the spring, go to the well
Draw water there, see if it comes out black.
If you bring back clear water, not black tar,
It means the germ of my heart is still alive,
Blood flows in my veins, and Tymphaea reigns."
The noose runs to the spring, thrusts itself into the well
And draws black water and dregs of tar,
It comes back dirty, and hangs me by the feet:
"If thy name is Helen, if thou are dead,
Why do you sit at home and not dive into the grave?"
"To my grave I shan’t go alone, alone I shall not go there;
In the grave my friends and loved ones will put me
And my children will have decorated me in white
And they will see me off with lemon leaves."
The noose rushes into the streets, runs up and down the alleys
To find where friends and loved ones live in the village
So they can come and put me under a tombstone.
But no friends and loved ones were found
Only the women of the village closed the door on me
and they cast stones at me, a bitch’s soul they called me.
For I, poor thing, had given away that they were dead,
That the whole village was dead, and life a carcass.
I am the Helen I can, in my mad drifting;
I ask no pity, I know no love,
I don’t flee the stoning, I seek no balm,
Out of my bowels comes the noose and the choking of my husband
and the plague of our village and the death of Christos,
My lover, now dead, whom dead I longed for still,
He’d lifted up his heavy hand upon me;
All of them spit their rotten innards into me.
No blood flows here, and none is shed.
You ask to know and there’s no answer
For the beginnings of this death and this here heavy crime.
Out of my sight, damn you a thousandfold,
No one can tell the tale who’s got no spit left;
Take flax and petrol, set Tymphaea ablaze
And go elsewhere to seek the wiles of Death
For in this village they're all dead
None will accept this, none will speak, no one shall tell you
Which of us perished first.Translated by Orfeas Apergis
The Weeds / Tα ζιζάνια
I shouldn’t have pulled up the weeds ─
there΄s not a stalk left.
Now, in the season of deprivation,
see what remains:
Our empty field
and me in the middle, a shipwrecked
and all around, scattered memories of crops.Translated by Karen Emmerich
The Perfect Outcast / Το απόλυτο απόβλητο
Our baby, feeling entirely undesired, took offense
and, shortly before the abortion, mysteriously miscarried.
An unambiguous suicide. What irony!
Our unique little creature,
now a unique little worm
amid hospital waste.
I’m not sad.
What about you, honey?
Come on, brush away those tears.
If I’d put it in my palm and held it out to you
you would have looked away, repulsed.
What did you think it was, anyhow?
Just another little death, not indignified, since there was
no funeral.Translated by Karen Emmerich
Ukrainian story / Ουκρανική ιστορία
I met Valter by chance but we stayed in touch, which kept growing with time. He lived with his family in a beautiful farm in Zaporizhia, sometime in the 15th century, and I in Kiev, in a dark flat on the 15th floor, in 1984. For a long time, we had a rather successful long-distance relationship. We communicated mainly through birds and bottles; sometimes, he would manage to squeeze his voice through my kitchen sink’s pipes, and I would almost push my whispers through his chimney. Whenever we had time, we gave each other marvelous advice, so appropriate it hardly mattered that it never arrived intact or on time. I never slept without thinking of him. He never woke without thinking of me. In the evenings, we would almost drink together – I, a drop of Charlotte liqueur, and he, a single malt whisky, no fewer than four shots. I helped him to not fear the future, and he told me about the present in full detail, offering me the unique ability to accurately represent the past. Valter, my precious secret. And if, at first, the never received kisses didn’t matter, as always happens, little by little, the dispatches began to get messed up. I phrased a precise question concerning feudalism, and got an answer related to the ingredients of a rustic soup. Though the owl still came at night, its claws were bare, it now seemed fat and less agile. The misunderstanding to end all misunderstandings wasn’t late in coming. Bottle in my bathtub, message in charcoal: «You don’t love me». Bottle in the flour sack, message in cheap eye pencil: «You don’t love me». The sky and the sea were first to understand, and stopped transferring messages backwards and forwards. I became an exceptional historian. I forgot, with no joy, but also with no grief. Last week, I was invited to decode a mediaeval manuscript. They told me it was a miller’s diary. Its last phrases were: «I never understood, Galina. We had exchanged engagement rings and would be married soon». To the chief archaeologist, I wrote hastily that I had only found calculations about credit accounts. Unimportant.Translated by Panayotis Ioannidis
Turn of the lighthouses for Ivan Ismailovic / Σβήστε τους φάρους για τον Ιβάν Ισμαήλοβιτς
The route is something relative. It occurs without necessarily requiring the march. Route means that a guard has opened the gate to the place without my permission. Or that winter was imposed by its own volition in order to serve a condition of misty frost with a luminous target. I am pleased to hear that Ivan Ismailovic is improperly dressed for the occasion. In that exact manner: in order to accomplish the route, he must fool himself to believe that he is walking elsewhere: at the place where he previously was –in the desert.
Since his story started to trouble me, I put the radio on, at moderate volume in order to be able to fall asleep. I usually wake up to the sound of some news item. I have difficulty recalling if it was morning or noontime, but it was certainly not the afternoon news bulletin, because the newscaster, whose voice I heard for the first time, announced that, some minutes ago, under the bright sun, at one of the most shining parts of the city, three investigators, who were evasive about the nature and the progress of their work, dressed in multi-colored costumes and made up with Rorschach ink spots, reconstructed, by means only of the arrangement and the potentialities of their bodies, some of the narratives concerning the case of Ivan Ismailovic, as they were reported in the daily press. I jumped out of bed being certain that their aim was no different from mine; to understand what is happening. I reckoned that there would be an accident if I threw myself on my bicycle in order to reach the spot of the performance as soon as possible, so I started striding across the streets. Soon enough, I had to kneel on the ground with my eyes shut. It is impossible to estimate how much time elapsed; I was, for quite a few hours, even before waking up, on the brink. Fortunately, nobody volunteered to lift me up on my feet; this tried and tested posture is mistaken for praying. When I got up and reached the scene of the performance, I met no one except for the radio reporter. Although I didn’t ask, he informed me that the performance was over, and that very few passers-by watched by chance some part of it. Not even he had the opportunity to meet the three investigators, who in any case stated that they would go on studying the phenomenon under the name of Ivan Ismailovic. The radio reporter was displeased with the fact that none of the bystanders was willing to share his views. I was about to ask him how he was informed about the time and the place, but I felt it was better to keep my mouth shut. Since his story started to trouble me, I am haunted by one of the most devastating worries I ever remember; it is quite a bad idea to know more than what Ivan Ismailovic wants me to know, because he is tiptoeing on the edge, and if he heard that I know, if this made him feel visible, while he was struggling to balance on his toes, he might think that there is only one way out; to fall into the void.
I have no idea how my letter will reach the people of the country that will accept you. I write to them: "He will arrive exhausted. I have faith in your medicine". If this is the country of the men who leave, no one will care for my letter. If this is the country of the people who are absent, no one will read my letter. If this shall be your country, my letter might be read by you. I am writing to you: "Hi, you must have arrived tired." If this is the country that stands always alone, I write to this country: "If he crosses your borders, you will recognize him immediately. If, while he tries to reach his destination, he needs to cross your land, can you make it difficult for him?" If you are going nowhere, then I am writing a letter to myself that I have already received: "Cry as much as you want. He has arrived."
It’s he. He, who neither hides, nor reveals himself, he who investigates and downtown finds deers and befriends the various kinds of birds in order to be guided by them, let him go on his way. Do not seek him, and if you find him, do not deliver him to me, do not deliver him to me, deliver him to God and deliver him to his cat.
Him, who no one knows what drives him, do not delay him with your gaze. Offer him the boulevards, offer him the passages - there is no threat, do not fear him, who only exists in the shadow of the day, let him complete his course.
Do not write about him in the newspapers, let him rest, let him get there, where he knows, do not wonder and do not disquiet when you hear footsteps so close to you without seeing who walks and in which direction, this is him, whatever it is that is happening, it will not finish soon, no one can follow him, this course is made for anyone, some choose it and others are forced to walk it, through unknown territories with dark plants, hoping that the course does not spell only their end.Translated by Christiana Mygdali (4), Anastasia Lampropoulou (23), and Danae Sioziou (13, 21)
Teach me how to break up / Μάθε με να χωρίζω
In a puddle of rainwater, I found a butcher’s glove. The currents were
filling it with mud and water. It was moving three broken fingers, and
the wrist disappeared, nervous, in the puddle. I admired it. I stood the-
re long looking at it, I admired its persistence and its courage to wave
at me without stopping, even when I’d walked some distance from it,
I turned back suddenly to look at it again: it was still waving.
I walked around the city, soaked, to find you and tell you. How I’d found
a rubber glove that knows how to wave goodbye better than the hands
that befell me and you.Translated by Avgi Daferera
My foremothers are a sierra / ΟΙ ΠΡΟΓΟΝΙΣΣΕΣ ΜΟΥ ΕΙΝΑΙ ΟΡΟΣΕΙΡΑ
To be your grandmother, young and going to kindergarten
and learn to make the mahlab drink that you long for
and learn the ladies’ fingers that your sister loves
learn embroidery for your trousseau left behind in our home
that we lost forever
but my craft was salvaged and here I am giving it to you.
Here I am your grandmother, the strong one, who at twenty-seven
I will be left on my own looking at my three children
and with my black eyes Ι sow long-suffering dances
in the orchards of Lapethos with the lemon blossoms.
To be your grandmother, the strong one, who throws the sheaves
upon my back and the upslope of Kampos does not affright me,
and if they say that I’m walking with my head down, with a proud gait I walk,
and if they say that I’m looking down, it is the sky I am appealing to.
To be your grandmother, the secret one getting lost in the woods
and telling you to get lost too and come free yourself
from the houses, the trousseau, and the heavy sheaves
and I tell you to also get lost in the dark woods
where your grandmothers come and go to kindergartens
that the lemon blossoms come and give off their fragrance
that the night comes which embroidered the black eyes
that the sweet comes to soften the grudge
that the burgeoning nature comes where we all slept
in the wilderness and alone, in the wilderness and not alone.Translated by Myrto Koromantzou