Costas Montis, the man, his mission and his poetry that touched my life like no other, the undercelebrated and overshadowed Greek-Cypriot poet of the 20th century is hereby offered a minor compensation by Diasporic Literature. So minor that a history of his remembrance should never really mention it. For his memory should remain pure like the words in his verse, unbiased like the letter in his thoughts, benevolent like his love for virtue. Poetry loves a placid existence.
Then again, who am I to talk about Montis? Who am I to bring his poetry to the fore, without admitting I have learned levels of sensitivity never imagined from his sense of righteousness, I have been taught about the heights and depths of beauty never seen. Yet, every time, I remained simple and low key reading his verse, as I remained greatly touched by his voice from within.
I have written about him before, I have whistled his poetry down dark and solitary corridors, I have thought of his phrases, and felt his feelings holding his books, reading about his life, asking questions from those who met him. Yes, his memory has become my duty to remember, his deliberations a purpose, his actions a promise. A promise to my friend Aris who asked me to translate some of his work into English. A purpose from my inconsistencies to show they can be useful at least once in his memory.
Dear reader, here I have tried to do justice to his verse in Greek, it is not easy expressing it exactly like he meant it, and as we know in poetry translation much is lost, but lets bare in mind that a little is also gained by opening the doors to his thought for the English speaking public to enjoy.
So let me start with a touching poem about one of Cyprus heroes, one from those who gave their lives so freely for freedom and justice.
A SONG DEDICATED TO OUR BIG BROTHER
Collecting a drop from your blood
in order to cleanse our own,
collecting a drop from your blood
in order to graft our own,
collecting a drop from your blood
in order to colour our own
never to fade again
Collecting your last gaze
to guide us not to fall astray,
collecting your last breath
in order for us to inhale its oxygen and survive
for thousands of years,
collecting your final words
for us to keep, and sing about
inexhaustible marches to our freedom…
Let no shadow be cast upon this grave
not even by a jasmine on the moon.
This grave is there to fool around
with swords of August rays
that send twice as much sun
back to the sun.
And even then, no, this grave
is not to reflect the sun,
the sun is to reflect its own suns.
Poem by Kostas Montis «Τραγούδι για το μεγάλο αδερφό μας»
Translated from the Greek by Iakovos Garivaldis – Aug 2011
Let’s also look at another of his poems where he speaks about the inner self, so philosophically. The original first…
Φαίνεται πως η επιβίωσή μας δεν είν’ δική μας υπόθεση,
φαίνεται πως κάποιον άλλον πρωτίστως ενδιαφέρει,
εκείνον που τόσο προσεχτικά
φρόντισε να επικολλήσει ανταμοιβή
ακόμα και στα πιο ασήμαντα
που θα ‘πρεπε να κάνουμε για να ζήσουμε,
κάποιον που ήξερε καλά
πόση εμπιστοσύνη θα μπορούσε να μας έχει
χωρίς αυτές τις ανταμοιβές.
It seems that our survival is not our own to set
it seems that it concerns predominantly another
who so carefully
cared to fasten a reward
even to the most insignificant act
that we should have accomplished in order to live,
someone who knew very well
and could have enough confidence in us
without these rewards.