Greek Poets in Translation: Ganas and Ritsos

Greek Poets in Translation: Ganas and Ritsos

13 January 2020, 18:00 to 20:00

King's College

Strand Campus, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS


organised in collaboration with the Department of Classics and Centre for Hellenic Studies, King’s College London.


Joshua Barley

Joshua Barley read Classics at Oxford and Modern Greek at King’s College, London. He lives in Athens, where he works as a translator and writer. His articles on Greek subjects have appeared in The White Review and other journals, and he is co-editor of the online journal Pericles at Play. He has translated Ilias Venezis’ Serenity and Makis Tsitas’ God is my Witness for Aiora Press. His translations of Michalis Ganas (with David Connolly) are published by Yale University Press as A Greek Ballad.

My talk will look at the process of translating the poetry of Michalis Ganas. Taking individual poems as a starting point, I will consider the particular challenges presented by Ganas’ intricate and often formally complex poetry. The discussion of specific poems will necessarily lead to a broader consideration of the translation of traditional Greek metre and form, particularly of the folk song, to which Ganas is deeply indebted. I will look at various approaches (from theoretical, historical and practical points of view) to these issues and give an account of my own imperfect solutions. There will also be discussion on the practical relationship of poet to translator (particularly in the case of a non-English-speaking poet) as well as translator to co-translator, all grounded in first-hand experience from the translation of the recently-published collection A Greek Ballad (YUP) – the first book-length publication of Ganas in English.

John Kittmer

John Kittmer read Classics at Cambridge and Oxford, and has recently been awarded a PhD in modern Greek literature at King’s College London, for his thesis on the poet Yannis Ritsos. He is now working on a translation of Ritsos’ verse memoir, The Monstrous Masterpiece, and preparing an edition of Ritsos’ translation of songs by Bertolt Brecht. He is chair of trustees for The Anglo-Hellenic League and the Gilbert Murray Trust, and is a member of the Management Committee of the Centre for Hellenic Studies.

In my talk, I will introduce and examine the work of Nikos Stangos, who published two books of his translations of the poetry of Yannis Ritsos in the early 1970s. I will consider the working relationship between Stangos and Ritsos, as it appears from their unpublished correspondence, and examine the translations themselves, looking at principles of selection and practices of translation. Since neither Ritsos nor Stangos was a native English speaker, I will consider the particular challenges posed by translation from one’s native tongue into a language that is not one’s own. And I will do a reading of some of the translations.