“I write poems to create space in language for hope”: A Conversation with Danae Sioziou


“I write poems to create space in language for hope”: A Conversation with Danae Sioziou

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Adam Goldwyn: Many anglophone readers, myself included, first came across your work in the 2016 anthology Austerity Measures, which framed what the editor Karen Van Dyck called in the subtitle “the New Greek Poetry” around the economic crisis of 2008, when you were in your early twenties. How did coming of age during the economic crisis shape your poetry? How has your poetry changed as the economic crisis has become less acute?

(…) It’s a cliché that art thrives in times of crisis. Artists, for example, need money, and money is time out of your life. I have always felt that this cliché underestimates and dehumanizes artists. Sometimes certain works of art shape the grounds for critique and resistance to hegemonic power and foster alternative languages and radical artistic and social imaginaries. But a crisis can also destroy voices. In Greece, for example, there is almost no literature produced by second- or third-generation immigrants. This is a huge loss. Yes, we can call it a crisis, but that means it requires both critical thought and creative and sustained interventions, and what followed the crisis of 2008 was far away from that.

“Crisis” is more than a term; it is a gaze and a framing that enables certain narratives of the present while excluding others.

Goldwyn: One of the tensions that I find so engaging is that your poems are not explicitly political but still respond to the current political and economic moment. “Poem for My Birthday,” to me anyway, shows how even passing the time on your birthday is shaped by invisible political forces; the narrator is literally covered in bills and tax forms, fielding calls from debt collectors, despairing yet resilient. How do you, as a poet, balance writing in and about a specific cultural moment in a way that can still be understood by a global audience not familiar with the Greek economic crisis, or even future generations of Greek readers who will not have lived through it?

Sioziou: I write poems to create space in language for hope. In Probable Landscapes, I wanted to challenge the emphasis that liberal thought places on individualism. I focused on inner and outer landscapes, exploring the relation to land, to ancestors, to others, and to the world. This kind of relation allows for an extended sense of selfhood and belonging. It is an exploration of the art and craft of poetry in terms of creating your own inner map, voice, and mythology. It combines modern and traditional means and themes along with an understanding of poetic rhythm and a vivid narrative style. (…)

Three Poems
by Danae Sioziou
translated by Adam J. Goldwyn

Poem for My Birthday

When it’s my birthday, I want to sleep all day long
covered in bills, W2 forms, postcards,
and I want to cry, but since I am not a crybaby,
I simply say that I will faint and then go to sleep.
Because a birthday after thirty is
like when they surreptitiously open your mail
like when you try to park
and you have blocked traffic
it’s like getting a call from the debt collectors
whether you have a car, children, spouse, dog
or not, a birthday after thirty
is like you are waiting to shop the clearance sale
and you can’t find anything in your size
in general terms it’s not your fault
when it’s my birthday I’m an answering machine
without space for new messages,
someone who hitchhikes on the wrong side of the street,
when it’s my birthday I can’t remember
what’s the big deal
I’m unbearable
and I’m not at all afraid of metaphors
when it’s my birthday, I suddenly remember
that I want to live forever
and I ruin the party.


As I open the door to my house,
I think that poetry is a privilege
like the expensive toys of childhood
or listening to your favorite song for the hundredth time
under ideal listening conditions
like kissing the love of your life
like millions of sparkling ponies
like life on other planets
like honey that dissolves completely in tea
like herds of lightning in the distance
and I like writing poems
as I like lying in the grass
eating cream with apricots, petting dogs
and even if people don’t like to hear poems
I like their sound
the way you put the words in order
the way you open the door holding the keys
to an inviolable house
I like writing poems
like cats like licking themselves in the sun
and I want to get good at this work
I want to get good at this work.

My Best Friend Is in Love with You

My best friend is in love with you
and you must build her a house
because she’s my best friend
and she’s in love with you
she aligns herself to your thoughts
just like the magi to the North Star
her every step follows this thought
magnetically drawn toward your constellation
like a temple complex
like a mathematical sequence
like a symphony
like end credits
like two hundred and fifty flavors of ice cream
like a collection of short stories, poems, butterflies, coins
like any collection it too requires
a fanatic or someone lost
she’s my best friend and when she falls in love
her hair floats up toward the sky
it expands, grows long
and joy gets bigger like the moon
3.8 centimeters per year
you must build her a house
because she’s my best friend
And she’s in love with you.

Translation from the Greek

Translator’s note: From Probable Landscapes (Antipodes Editions, 2021).


Ημερολόγιο (scroll down for English)


Η ζωή δεν είναι πια

το ήσυχο ποτάμι του χρόνου 

αλλά ένα λουτρό αίματος

σπρώχνω τις ρίζες μου βαθύτερα

και τους ζητώ να τραγουδήσουν

το τραγούδι του χώματος


Όταν μου κόψανε το αριστερό στήθος 

έπλυνα την πληγή με δυόσμο

όταν μου κόψανε το δεξί 

έπλυνα την πληγή με βασιλικό

χωρίς στήθος ζητώ νερό 

μου δίνουν ξύδι


Δεν μπορώ να σηκώσω τα χέρια μου

δεν μπορώ να σηκωθώ 

δεν μπορώ να ξαπλώσω 

να πιω νερό να φάω 

να πάω στην τουαλέτα 

να πλυθώ να μιλήσω 

δεν μπορώ να ντυθώ

είμαι γεμάτη τρύπες 


Μπαμπά η σειρά χάλασε

κατεβαίνουμε στην άβυσσο μαζί

Μπαμπά ακούω κλαρίνα 

βλέπω φαντάσματα

σου βάζω οξυγόνο

μου δίνεις τα φάρμακα


Δεν θέλουν να σκέφτομαι τα νεκρά κορίτσια 

Θέλουν να σκέφτομαι τα ζωντανά 

Αλλά εγώ θέλω να τραγουδήσω τις νεκρές μου φίλες

Θέλω να μάθω τα ονόματά τους 


Τρία χειρουργεία σε ενάμιση μήνα

δεν ήξερα ότι υπάρχουν τόσα φάρμακα

φοβάμαι τη χημειοθεραπεία


Παραδίδω το σώμα μου στην επιστήμη

Γίνομαι αντικείμενο νοσοκομείου ξανά

Μου περνάνε τα φάρμακα από μια αρτηρία 

Κατευθείαν στην καρδιά

Προσπαθώ να περάσω τα στάδια 

Αλλά το σώμα μου δεν μου ανήκει πια 

Και μου φωνάζει για τον πόνο


Το Πάσχα όταν τελείωσε η λοίμωξη

Δύο βδομάδες πυρετού μαζί με χημειοθεραπεία

(Ξέρεις πως είναι να μην έχεις ανοσοποιητικό;)

Αρρυθμίες, η καρδιά πονάει

Το επόμενο εικοσιτετράωρο πέρασε 

Με ένα δάχτυλο ουίσκι και (δύο τσιγάρα) 

(οι γιατροί είπαν εντάξει λίγο/

στα παραπάνω ξέρασα)

Γιατί αυτός που περίμενα

Δεν ήρθε

Γιατί μου είπε πως όλοι θα με εγκαταλείψουν

Κι αφού δεν πέθανα

Λέω πως για σήμερα δεν έχω ούτε καρκίνο 

Καπνίζω και πίνω 


Δεν φοβάμαι το θάνατο πια 

Θα βρω την ταμπακιέρα της Ελένης 

Που άντεξε τριάντα μέρες 

και ήταν φίλη μου για τρεις


Ο μπαμπάς μου στο τηλέφωνο μου λέει

πως όταν ήμουν μικρή δεν φοβόμουν το σκοτάδι

και στην παιδική χαρά ήμουν από τα λίγα παιδιά

που όταν πέφτανε και χτυπούσανε

ακόμα και με το ποδήλατο

σηκωνόντουσαν και συνέχιζαν

χωρίς  να τρέξουν στους γονείς τους

νομίζω πως έτσι μου λέει συγγνώμη

και σε αγαπώ


Τώρα κοιτάζω από το παράθυρο

το φως

θυμάμαι πως παίζω με τις ηλιαχτίδες

ίσως μπορώ και χωρίς τις βλεφαρίδες μου


Σιγά σιγά βλέπω

ποιοι βρίσκονται σε κύκλο γύρω μου

και μου θυμίζουν πόσο έχω αγαπηθεί

και μου μιλάνε για το πόσο έχω αγαπήσει


Σιγά σιγά

μετράω στιγμές


μαθαίνω να ζω με τον φόβο

μαθαίνω να ζω με τον πόνο

μαθαίνω να ζω


Αυτά δεν είναι ποιήματα

τα λέω ειλικρίνεια


These are not poems

Life is no more
the quiet river of time
but a bloodbath
I drive my roots deeper
and ask them to sing
the song of the ground
When they cut off my left breast
I washed the wound with mint
when they cut off my right
I washed the wound with basil
without breasts I ask for water
they give me vinegar
I can’t raise my arms
I can’t get up
I can’t lie down
I can’t drink water, eat
go to the bathroom
wash myself, dress myself
Iam full of holes
Dad the sequencenowis broken
we descend together into the abyss
Dad I listen to village music
I see ghosts
I bring you the oxygen tank
you give me meds
Theydon’t want me to think of the dead girls
They want me to think of the ones who lived
But I want to sing of my dead girlfriends
I want to know their names
Three operations in six weeks
I didn’t know there were so many drugs
I’m afraid of chemo
I surrender my body to science
I become once more a hospital object
They inject the drugs through an artery
directly into the heart
I try to pass the stages
But my body is not mine anymore
And it cries out to me
It cries out to me of the pain
Around Easter, when the infection went away
Two weeks of high fever along with chemo
Do you know what it’s like to have no immune system?
Arrhythmia, my heart hurts
The next twenty-four hours passed
with a finger of whiskey and (two cigarettes)
(the doctors said it’s okay to have a little/
when I smoked some more I threw up)
Because the one I waited for
Didn’t come
Because he said that everyone would leave me
And since I didn’t die
I say that today I have no cancer
I smoke and drink
I’m not afraid of death anymore
I’ll find Helen’s cigarette case
Who held out for thirty days
and was my friend for three
My dad calls me up and tells me
that when I was little I wasn’t afraid of the dark
and in the playground I was one of the few kids
who when they fell down
even with the bicycle
they got up and went on
without running back to their parents
I believe that this is his way of saying I’m sorry
and I love you
Now I look out the window
at sunlight
I remember how to play with the rays of the sun
maybe I can manage without my eyelashes
Little by little I make out
those who stand in a circle around me
reminding me how much I’ve been loved
telling me how much I have loved
Little by little
I count moments
I come back
I learn to live with the fear
I learn to live with the pain
I learn to live
These are not poems
I call them honesty

Ενδεχόμενα τοπία


Καθώς ανοίγω την πόρτα του σπιτιού μου,
σκέφτομαι ότι η ποίηση είναι ένα προνόμιο
όπως τα πολύ ακριβά παιχνίδια της παιδικής ηλικίας
ή η εκατοστή ακρόαση του αγαπημένου σου τραγουδιού
σε ιδανικές ακουστικές συνθήκες
σαν φιλί με τον έρωτα της ζωής σου
σαν εκατομμύρια λαμπερά πόνυ
σαν τη ζωή σε άλλους πλανήτες
σαν το μέλι που διαλύεται εντελώς μέσα στο τσάι
σαν κοπάδια κεραυνών από απόσταση
κι εμένα μου αρέσει να γράφω ποιήματα
όπως μου αρέσει να ξαπλώνω στο γρασίδι
να τρώω κρέμα με βερίκοκα, να χαϊδεύω σκύλους
κι αν στους ανθρώπους δεν αρέσει ν᾿ ακούνε ποιήματα
εμένα μου αρέσει αυτός ο ήχος
ο τρόπος να βάζεις τις λέξεις στη σειρά
ο τρόπος ν᾿ ανοίγεις την πόρτα κρατώντας κλειδιά
για ένα απαραβίαστο σπίτι
μου αρέσει να γράφω ποιήματα
όπως στα γατιά αρέσει να γλείφονται στον ήλιο
και θέλω να γίνω καλή στη δουλειά
θέλω να γίνω καλή στη δουλειά.

Μπορεί να είναι εικόνα λουλούδι

HOME IN THE GROUND by Danae Sioziou at und.Athens, tr. by Panayotis Ioannidis


A poem by Danae Sioziou at und.Athens translated by Panayotis Ioannidis


Mother called on the phone, you’re not eating, second day in a row now. The perfect monster, I, asked what’s happening next and across from me Antigone let fall two tears into the coffee. I took the train, a bullet, you’ve no idea what a pain these trips are to me. Together we lay down on the white bed, I took it out on the nurses, they accepted it, no one has such a granddaughter — you winked at me. You came to me in my sleep again on the next day. Gently drawing aside the net from the stomach, you showed me how you had taken care of the gardens: it was from you, then, that we had tumbled into the world, it’s you who had made sure that one day the heart would take up all the space in here.

– translated by Panayotis Ioannidis



Pictured:A detail from Rana Hamadeh’s performance score of Al Karantina: De Contagione et Contagiosis Morbis (2012), as presented at utters excess in between, curated by Ioanna Gerakidi and Danae Io at State of Concept. See the full documentation of the show here.

“Nützliche Kinderspiele” Rezension der “Wiener Zeitung”

“Nützliche Kinderspiele” von Danae Sioziou: “Ein Lyrikband blickt mit den Augen eines Kindes in die Welt – spielerisch, poetisch und nicht ohne Humor.”

Gerald Jatzek

*A review of the German edition of Useful Children’s Games in “Wiener Zeitung” by Gerald Jatzek, who reads the book as a poetic and humorous alternative plan to positivism.


Danae Sioziou: Nützliche Kinderspiele

Useful Children Games in German by Parasitenpresse Editions


Einer unbegreiflichen und verwirrenden Erwachsenenwelt stellt die griechische Dichterin Danae Sioziou ihre eigene Spielewelt gegenüber. Dabei zeigt sie das Spiel als den ewigen Versuch, Ordnung im Chaos zu schaffen, als Mittel der Selbsterkenntnis und damit als nützliche Kulturpraxis. In den Welten, die sie arrangiert, ziehen Spielsachen, Tiere, Pflanzen, Haushaltsgegenstände, Eltern, Großeltern, Gouvernanten und Lehrer, Märchenfiguren und übernatürliche Wesen umher – und werfen Fragen nach der Widersprüchlichkeit des Lebens auf. Es ist eine Traum- und Albtraumwelt zugleich, voller Vorstellungskraft und Wunder, voller Bedrohungen und Hindernisse, in denen Wunden, Ängste und Verdrängungen als Sensoren der Suche und Orientierung fungieren.

Danae Sioziou ist Gast beim Europäischen Literaturfestival Köln-Kalk am 6.-8. September 2019.

Danae Sioziou: Nützliche Kinderspiele. Gedichte aus dem Griechischen von Elena Pallantza und der Gruppe LEXIS, 62 Seiten, Preis: 10,- € – ab sofort lieferbar

Cover SioziouDanae Sioziou, 1987 geboren, aufgewachsen in Karlsruhe und in Karditsa (Thessalien / Griechenland), lebt in Athen…

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The Spider, Danae Sioziou, in The Ilanot Review


The Spider

Danae Sioziou

Translated from the Greek by Panagiotis Kechagias and Mania Meziti


Dear Sir,

I watch you from the ceiling,
your coffee requests more sugar.
Something about the clothes and the shoes is off,
you shouldn’t have patched up all the holes.
Grab the day like a knife,
the weight of your life keeps growing,
the agreement with the mirror has been cancelled
and you are turning fat.
Tomorrow I will hang before your nose,
perhaps you could please feed me?

The Spider


Dear Spider,

just yesterday the bat gave birth in a corner of the attic, her tasty eggs float in the air.
I haven’t learned to drive, to debone fish, to read newspapers.
I have two useless dog teeth and a BB gun.
I have made a deal with the morning coffee,
I respect the decision of the mirror.
I no longer set traps for birds,
each day I head to the river and shoot the waters.





3 poems in Portuguese by A Bacana, translated by Joana Gomez & Michel Kabalan


Οικιακά – Trabalhos domésticos

Se calhar não percebeu
E nem reparou
mas continuou a cortar as mãos
depois de descascar as pêras.
O sangue fluiu com gentileza
pelas linhas do destino da vida do coração
até ao ralo
rodopiando entre pratos sujos e restos de comida.
Aproximou-se inquieto
o seu gato
com uma compaixão sincera
começou a lamber as feridas
enquanto por um breve momento
ela se contemplou no reflexo vítreo dos olhos felinos
uma estrangeira
presa numa gaiola suja
um telhado que não conhece o nascer do sol
pequenos besouros no chão
e na pia as mãos encharcadas num lago escuro
que agora brilha
coroado com a espuma branca do detergente.
Das profundezas da pia
nascem todas as luas cheias
as luas brancas
deixa-me ao menos acabar a louça hoje

Danae Sioziou (Grécia, 2008)
Publicado em  ‘Austerity Measures: The New Greek Poetry’ (NYRB Poets, 2017)


Um assalto (2018)

Ao abrir a porta da minha casa
vejo que a poesia é um privilégio
como os brinquedos caros da infância
ou a enésima audição da tua música favorita
em condições acústicas perfeitas
como um beijo dado pelo amor da tua vida
como milhares de póneis brilhantes
como a vida noutros planetas
como o mel que se dissolve completamente numa chávena de chá
como rebanhos de trovões à distância
Eu gosto de escrever poemas
porque escuto o começo da minha morte
mesmo que as pessoas não gostem ouvir poemas
Eu gosto deste som
a maneira como se põe em ordem as palavras
a maneira como assaltam uma casa segura
Gosto de escrever poemas
a maneira como os gatos gostam de se lamber ao sol
e eu quero ser boa nisso.
eu quero ser boa nisso.


A Flecha (2010)

Anda cá e brinca comigo. Desabotoa os meus botões um por um e por cada um deles contar-te-ei um sonho. Verás como as minhas costas nuas formam um arco. Por desenhar. Quando puderes, tenta esculpir aqui, peço-te, uma flecha.

publicado em ‘Useful Children’s Games’, Harlequin Creature, New York 2016

An interview to Elžbieta Banytė for the 30th literature festival „Druskininkai Poetic Fall“. http://www.pdr.lt/en/texts/item/123-danae-sioziou

Poetinis Druskininkų ruduoElžbieta Banytė (hereinafter, E. B.): A few years ago, I saw “Burn The Script”, the Greek TV comedy series, where one of the episodes was “Germany vs. Greece”. You were born in Germany. Do you think this kind of humor has any good basis? Namely, laughing at cultural stereotypes (for example, at Germans, who are said to only walk when the light is green, while the Greeks don’t even bother to look for a zebra crossing). How do you understand the “Greek mentality”? If such a thing really exists, is it reflected in your creative work?

Danae Sioziou (hereinafter, D. S.): I had not seen this series before. I only watched it now. It made me very sad. It‘s not funny at all: this humor is primitive and cheesy, one that does not offer anything to me as a viewer. It does not cheer me up and does not give me the space to think. I guess stereotypes, fortunately, do not necessarily prove to be true. Moreover, they are merely an instrument for making a caricature of nations‘ peculiarities and cultures and, among other things, can open doors to dangerous phenomena such as the legalization of radical and racist attitudes in the minds of citizens. Television is a very influential medium, so I can’t treat it with indulgence. I’ve watched a lot of TV shows and films, and I‘ve read books and articles about the relations between these two countries. Sure enough, nations do have historical identities, but they’re made up of many components – and often, it’s not even a singular thing. However, people‘s everyday routines are constantly changing, so life can’t be based on stereotypes and oppositions. We must commit ourselves to protecting the fragile and truly not self-evident assets of peace and democracy.

When we moved to Greece – too late for me to be able to become a real Greek and too early to be just a German or a German Greek – something happened. There was a celebration of October 28th going on, and some child, mocking my accent, told me to go back to my homeland (he meant Germany), and I was a little disturbed and told him that my homeland was here. He gave me that interrogative look. This experience was not traumatic, but I remember it. Just as I recall the kindergarten teacher in Germany, who regularly compared the children of immigrants with the little Germans. But there was another woman who was good to us all, and spoke with everyone in his or her mother tongue. When we first arrived in Greece, I saw the Albanian immigrants who worked in the fields all day without a break and did not get anything to eat, who did not even dare to utter a word. The family women often gave us food that we could carry to them secretly because we were still small and could not be seen among the high corn cobs. We felt pity for the Albanians because we also had immigrants in our families, and, moreover, our previous generations were living in poverty due to the German occupation and the civil war that forced the part of my family who resided in the mountains to resettle.

As a child, I identified Greece with a paradise because we would come there only in the summer, and in my childish eyes, it all looked perfect and full of colors that I could not even imagine in Germany. One day, during a religion lesson, I was sharing the desk with D., a child whose family had just moved from Albania. I was the only one who knew his real name, because he kept it secret from others. When the teacher of religion asked what was paradise, D. and I responded with one voice: “Greece!” We were wrong. A few days later, he was brutally beaten at school, because he was a foreigner. I didn‘t get beaten and felt extremely lucky.

I think if some kind of mentality is visible in my poetry at all, it’s the mentality of a stranger – but one that goes beyond stereotypes. The one of a person who grew up and lived in different places – even though, in my own case, being partly privileged. The following quote from Camus expresses something about me: “On the contrary, in a world where the shadows of illusions and light splits, people become strangers. This exile is without refuge, because it does not contain the lost memories of the homeland or the hope of the promised land.” (The Myth of Sisyphus )