Phoebe Giannisi

Phoebe Giannisi (, born in Athens, is the author of six books of poetry, including Homerica (Kedros, 2009, forthcoming in 2017, translated in English by Brian Sneeden, World Poetry Books) and Rhapsodia (Gutenberg, 2016). Her work focuses on the borders between poetry and performance, theory and representation, and investigates the connections of poetics with body and place. A 2015–2016 Humanities Fellow of Columbia University, Giannisi is an associate professor at the University of Thessaly. In 2012-13, her poetic installation about the Cicada, TETTIX, was exhibited at the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), Athens. In 2015 she exhibited her work project about Goats AIGAI_O at the Angeliki Chatzimichali Museum in Athens (with Iris Lycourioti). In 2016 she was a Humanities Fellow at Columbia University, New York. In October 2016, she presented her performance/lecture Nomos_The Land Song at Onassis Center, New York.

© Rainer Maria Gassen



“…as if enchanted my mind hovers
my every thought around you wanders
I don’t rest and while I sleep
I only think of you”

(Dimitris Gogos – Bagianteras (Rebete song)


[251b] “for as the effluence of beauty enters him through the eyes, he is warmed; the effluence moistens the germ of the feathers, and as he grows warm, the parts from which the feathers grow, which were before hard and choked, and prevented the feathers from sprouting, became soft, and as the nourishment streams upon him, the quills of the feathers swell and begin to grow from the roots over all the form of the soul; for it was once all feathered.”

(Plato, Phaedrus. Translated by Harold N. Fowler)

3. Birthday

Do the wings itch as they sprout?
When from the belly’s opening
you first raised your head
and pushing against the pain
sprang into the light
to cry out,
were your eyes open?
Did you listen to their words
as they held, gently
your contorted body
gathered, legs tucked
and the day warm?
A woman giving birth
on the floor of her car—
is each growth
painful as the first?
Doesn’t one grow
at the same pulse, imperceptibly?
Or is it after periods of stasis
when motion seizes you suddenly
and you grow and are unbearably changed?
Do you cast off the old
like the flower its petals
in the dew that you suck,
again and again?
by night’s afflictions,
do you open your morning eyes
askew to survey the world?
You’ve gathered the stars, you hold them
in your hands, you scatter them
onto the earth and the sand
taller than ever,
you the tree
we fit inside your tiny shadow
lighter now, lighter

(Translated by Brian Sneeden)

4. Nostos III

lightness lightness lightness
life is nostalgia for lightness
lightness of the air in spring
under the trees one afternoon
words glide sun shadows light
lightness of summer mornings
lightness in battle
when the limbs of Achilles the limbs
of heroes rise on their own volition
as though a god had put wings there
where force is unnecessary
where there’s an abundance of force
force isn’t the product of mortal will
but sprouts effortless inside
the body
when the breath of oneself is the breath
of the elements surrounding the body
the hand glides across the water
carried by the boat
which itself is carried by another force
machines or the air we do not care
lightness of the fly susurrating
insect which ceaselessly
wanders rises falls walks
weightless as a caress
lightness of the air in spring
neither cold nor hot
the body expands and accepts
nothing disturbs it
only joy from the touch of
brazenly embracing
embracing without intention without purpose
nostalgia of lightnesses nostalgia
of Paradise
we call it Paradise
each of the seasons is spring
the air just such a temperature
with no gravity
you didn’t need to fly
it’s enough to imagine
you are outside
as if you were inside
the body moves on its own
immune to effort
protracted stretched taut
reclining upright
the eyes look and see
are glad from what they see
they listen to what they see
smell the air
the air embraces
scents of grass of sea
the sound of cicadas
sometimes the air can be a little hot
and because it’s hot it can be
a little dense I mean a little light
the soul stretches
can’t recall
it is inside itself inside its own body
I try to walk and fly
I am a bird without flying
uphill is downhill
the car sprints
the outside enters through the windows
I turn my gaze and see
two sparrows
I turn my gaze again
the sparrows have flown off
I do not know how all these
birds fit in the sky
I know without needing to see them
when I look
they’re no longer there
I was there too
I want to be there again
a breath for a small gift
a small now that does not last
it will stay will leave will be forgotten

(Translated by Brian Sneeden)