Katerina Anghelaki Rooke
Poetry and Life of Katerina Anghelaki Rooke
Understanding Katerina’s poetry is like encountering a natural philosophy.
As to her position inside and outside Greece, she knows how difficult it is "to be a Greek and yet not be perceived as a Nationalist."
Aside from knowing how to communicate with anybody, including the most gruffy taxi driver who suddenly discovers a weak spot in him as she addresses him frankly and straight, she is a professional translator from English, Russian and French into Greek.
With regards to holding other poets in high esteem, she would remark while we all search for immortality, and of course such a thing does not exist, she would disguishes nevertheless those immortals like Elytis from the rest, or “us mortals”.
Always she is humble, short, to the point and if the other complies to her demand, then she gives a strong feed back: “now you are talking”.
She comes from a generation of promising young poets. Unfortunately most of them have died in the meantime. Already at the age of seventeen she wrote a poem which Katzanzakis acclaimed immediately as being worthy to be published.
Throughout her life, poetry has never been far from her. Always there is a writing pad or her diary near her, on the table, whether now in her apartment in Athens or else in her enchanted house on Aegina.
Writing poetry is for her like entering a room. Once in it she looks around and checks which items - in reality the poems she writes while in that room - she shall take with her when about to leave that room. Such a room can be filled with human pain. She feels this pain as it is the source of a very specific inspiration. As a matter of fact, all good poetry stems in her opinion from such felt pain.
When her husband Rodney Rooke died, she felt as if he had taken with him her poetry. She could no longer write poetry. Only lately, at the beginning of 2011, has she entered a new room and has started to write new poems.
Rodney Rooke had been more than just a helping hand. Having studied classical philology at Cambridge, he was to her an encylopedia. He let her find the exact words she needed. Consequently Katerina has been living all her married life in both the Greek and English world.
Her linguistic competences are underlined by her profession as being a translator not only from English into Greek, but as well from French and Russian. The latter language she picked up from her nanny, a young Russian woman who was brought by her father back from Russia who had visited together with Katzanzakis this land of the deep soul. She loves the Russian language. Having studied translation in Geneva, she has undertaken such works as that of Pushkin, but equally of young Russian writers who she adores. One her most recent translations from English into Greek has been on the other hand of Nobel prize winner Seamus Heaney. But aside from these professional works, whenever Katerina participates in countless workshops, conferences she is always ready to translate the poems of other poets into Greek, as was the case during the "Myth of the City" conference held in Crete 1995.
Katerina loves her island: Aegina, and lives there in an enchanted house designated to become a centre for translation (and for dreamers). She would always welcome anyone with her strong voice and ask immediately: “How are you!”
Translating Into Love Life’s End
New Publication by Katerina Anghelaki Rooke:
“Translating Into Love Life’s End”
In: Shortstring Press, 2004
Katerina undertakes for the first time in her long career as poetess the task of translating her own poems into English. She does so after realizing that a great deal of her life she has been spend with her British husband. This gives her a more natural way of entering the English language compared to what most people experience in their daily life. Still, she hesitates since expressions in one’s own language, Greek in her case, are really untranslatable.
In this book she observes many puzzles and therefore tries to reflect in words what the sky defines and does not, or what hope grandmothers carry within them for children still to be born.
When she came back from readings in Paris, Oxford and Sofia, Katerina Anghelaki Rooke expressed a natural desire for life. In her poems she gives always a sample of her observations of life. They are transformed into a wonder. Through that they become powerful poetic expressions, equally philosophical reflections of life. This is her secret strength to which can be added her booming voice.
She conveys through her voice a capacity to reach other people without any inhibition. "I have always been myself, never ran after anything and do not ask for favors!"
One of her most loved words is “really”. Often she would use it with some sly or rather witty smile in her eyes. For instance, she would ask the other to reaffirm what he or she has just said by asking: “do you really mean it what you said?” Then, as if not really waiting for an answer, she flings without hesitation her great love at the person and trusts her wit by encircling the arguments of the other as putting the arms around the other. She would conclude: “I take you for what you said”.
Believing and not believing is her case not about being hurt by what others say or not about others. She does not care so much about that. Rather she pays literal attention to what is being said in order to discover if it has a ring of truth to it. By giving it a poetic reason, she transform this expression into another form of diction. To her poetry is taking serious the stuff reality offers and to accept how human beings are made. Naturally some facts overcome them like the law of gravity. This cannot be disputed: we human beings live on this earth. Hence poetry is there to uplift the human spirit, in order to let hear the human voice! She says then things in association with other contents making up love for life. This then is her resistance as long as she lives against death.
Poetry is all about that resistance, but mind you, she would caution, provided all that is said in a very short form. She would add, you know that I am not a believer of long poems.
When you die, I won’t be there
To keep your feet warm
Between my antiquated breast
To recite poems dedicated
To the living air and say:
“Your legs, your lies
The tufts of your hair, all so well made!”
But when you die you’ll find me
Having carpeted long ago
The corridor leading to the next room – life
With my ancient flesh.
My whisper will welcome you saying:
Look what a magic thing
The body is even one beaten by darkness
How sacred tears are
When shed for what you never experienced…
“Make room” you’ll say to me when you die.
“Make room for me to sit,
I like this flowerbed
You chose to wait for me
I like the green chaos.
How did we use to call this back on earth?
Katerina Anghelaki Rooke, from:
Translating into Love Life’s End
A Frightful Oligarchy
Fear is an absolute monarch;
Next to him Queen Despair
Has fewer competences
Since it is as if everything has been lost by now.
When she doesn’t feel young and strong enough
To plunge into mourning
Sailing-souls, she asks the assistance
Of her exclusive nurse, sadness
Who doesn’t charge much, is no trouble
Does not shout, seeks no ties.
If you don’t send her away, she remains
Faithful next to you, with you
Contemplating with empty eyes
The emptiness within you.
Katerina Anghelaki Rooke, from:
Translating into Love Life’s End
From my window I observe the traffic –
Cars parked in the void
Or speed up in order
To catch themselves returning.
The world seems indefinable, dim
As if I were blinded by the steam
From some distant cauldron
Where the evil of creation
Is stewing in its own juice.
The infatuation bodies used to provoke –
Where has the infatuation gone?
How can a wounded memory
Has the content of life changed
Or does my person no longer offer
For life to contain me?
Never before have so many questions
Weighed down my poems
Never before has imagination
Omitted to give me
So many answers.
From now on you’ll find
Hardly any descriptions of nature
In my lines;
This is because
I’m concentrating totally
On trying to imagine the face
Of the one who will promise me
For just one moment.
A recent report about Katerina Anghelaki Rooke was published at