European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Part B: Poets as Bridge Builders

Brooklyn Bridge




Yiorgos Chouliaras


An eye for a tooth the doctor may have said

as I was obliquely looking from her chair

while she had to stand to work as I day dreamt

that numb from the tenderly pending motions

of threads of hair that lightly obscured her eyes

I would find the spell that unavailingly extends

braids gathered under a medical cap

seeking to lure me to highways and alleys

of desire which like the Brooklyn Βridge

in that irresistible poem by Hart Crane connects

her house with the Manhattan doctors’ offices

but I doubt that she ever said anything like that

as the demands of dentistry are very high

and who has the time to read ancient scripts

that could bridge the Atlantic itself

bringing back this angel on their wings

to Polish soil again where an ancestor

was toothlessly dreaming of smiling rabbis


Translated by Maria Koundoura & the author

[First published in the “Bridges” 2015 Calendar of the Hellenic Authors’ Society]



Γιώργος Χουλιάρας


Οφθαλμόν αντί οδόντος μπορεί να είπε η γιατρός

που λοξά κοίταζα βυθισμένος στην πολυθρόνα της

γιατί δούλευε όρθια πλάι μου ενώ ονειροπολούσα

πως ναρκωμένος από τρυφερά εκκρεμείς κινήσεις

των μαλλιών που ελαφρά συσκότιζαν τα μάτια της

θα έβρισκα το φίλτρο που αλυσιτελώς επεκτείνει

μαζεμένες κάτω από ιατρικό σκούφο πλεξούδες

γυρεύοντας να παρασύρει σε λεωφόρους και στενά

της επιθυμίας που όπως η γέφυρα του Μπρούκλιν

στο ακαταμάχητο εκείνο ποίημα του Χαρτ Κρέιν

θα συνέδεε το σπίτι της με το ιατρείο στο Μανχάταν

αλλά αμφιβάλλω αν πράγματι είπε κάτι τέτοιο

καθώς είναι σκληρές οι απαιτήσεις της οδοντιατρικής

και ποιος έχει χρόνο να διαβάσει αρχαίες γραφές

που ακόμη και τον Ατλαντικό θα γεφύρωναν

στα φτερά τους επιστρέφοντας τον άγγελο αυτό

στα πολωνικά πάλι χώματα όπου ένας παππούς

χωρίς δόντια ονειρευόταν χαμόγελα των ραββίνων


[Συμμετοχή στο Ημερολόγιο 2015 της Εταιρείας Συγγραφέων με θέμα «Γέφυρες»]

There are many bridges involved in this poem: the Brooklyn one, famous for connecting Manhattan with Brooklyn, but while the poet throws a glance at the connection between Brooklyn and the dentist's office, he is reminded of ancient scripts serving the purpose of builing an imaginary bridge over the Atlantic to land suddenly in Poland. Surely this is the glance of the migrant or the writer in exile who sensed freedom from oppression and existence once he had passed the Statue of Liberty. But the seeds of thoughts originate from the old continent called Europe. That is another life which awaits one there if it had been left some time ago. Yiorgos Chouliaras would equate the home coming with the equation of someone asking the stranger is that you returning home? 


           Brooklyn Bridge


The rainbow as a bridge




                                                                   Photo by Kostas Kartelias 2007

                   The Izmir-Chios mural 2007 with rainbow as symbol of intercultural

                   dialogue for peace between Greece and Turkey, and to add something

                   to what is known otherwise as Delacroix's painting 'Slaughter of Chios'


Writing Poetry

Find the bottom
at the bottomless
read the hours
in the whirlpool
of time
experience silence
not as void
but as fullness
unfold light
with the shadows
of the night
span a bridge
with unspoken words
create a rainbow
with the colours of peace.

Germain Droogenbroodt

 In another poem, he speaks about the wish that the rainbow lends colours to his eyes:

Bridge / Ah rainbow /give my eyes /your colours

give my heart / sweet travel food

always construct skywards / a bridge

don't abandon me / when light leaves me / and it gets dark.



Variation zu einem Gedicht von Svetlana Marisova

Ach Regenbogen
schenke meinen Augen
deine Farben

schenke Reisezehrung*
meinem Herz

schlage wieder Himmelwärts
ein Brücke

verlasse mich nicht
wenn das Licht mir verlässt
und es düster wird.

·        teerspijs” nicht in der “Normalsprache” verwendet, aber poetisches Wort teer=zart, Spijs= Speise, “Zartspeise”. Bedeutet auch Hostie.



        Children from Athens 108 school in front of the Izmir-Chios mural              June 2007

                                                                                       Photo by Kostas Kartelias


The Welsh understanding of bridge


building as 'bridging of cultural




The Welsh poetess Menna Elfyn points out that In the Mabinogion, old welsh tales – Bendigeidfran, the giant, bends over and makes himself a bridge between Wales and Ireland. Hence this lovely phrase says it all:

A fo ben, bid bont.
Let him who is head/leader-- be also a bridge.

To this she adds the significant afterthought: „Wish we had more leaders who are also bridges today“, or who can bridge differences and still find common grounds for agreement. 

Moreover it is much better to cross a river on a bridge rather than having to wade through it for the toes might hit against some rocks.


Lledr Bridge

Sighing inside the timer's bow

his saw' refrain, across the flow,

His hands are in this grain

and so hold yours again

as you cross to the other side

Hold onto him now, your guide,

The river's rocks cannot hurt

the steady steps of your heart.


Menna Elfyn


The Northern Irish Sublime





          Bernard Conlon and Juan Gutierrez at the bookshop



Footfall Across the Foyle

Williamite war ignited, on the Foyle,  
spawning divide, relentless tide, turmoil.
A  curvaceous footbridge crossed the Foyle -
history's anger ebbing.

Footfall on the parade ground, sword
into plough share. Ebrington Barracks
demobbed into shared-space, a template
for benign "interface"?

Halfway across the bridge, I gazed at the
Guildhall, in swank sandstone, siege
of Pound Store,
and pay-day loan places. Still,
there was something
there, in the air.

I reached the other side, "the Waterside," quite
calm within the British Army's old walls.
I looked
at a statue of a World War II sailor with his kit
slung over his shoulder, looking chipper.

I came to what was Breslau, now Wroclaw, and
explored metaphor.
Crossed bridges in my
mind that felt my

Bernard Conlon



   Bernard Conlon talking to a group of students after the Poetry Workshop had finished.


One Bridge


All it takes is one bridge in need to be crossed especially if affected suddenly by cancer and therefore facing quite another situation in life. Jael Uribe went through this threat of cancer and as she puts it "survived". Since then she has created a poetic movement called 'Women Scream'. It has the aim to take those who are affected by cancer but not only out of this prison of silence by letting them find their voice, and by discovering that they have something to give, to articulate and to contribute.

One bridge

Jael Uribe


All what it takes

to extent our minds towards infinity

is a bridge

to let us go our way.

We need one bridge to change it all,

to retrieve the world from agony, confusion and pain.

Don't you see what I'm saying?

A bridge is an outcast bird

in open space.

No cage to conceal the dreams.

No time for constructing walls to separate men

from themselves.

A bridge is our only chance left

to make gold out of burned hay.

How far are we removed from ourselves?

And then,

while shadows surround our heads like clouds

and we find ourselves amidst a humanity turned savage,

a single voice can be heard

shouting out in the open JUSTICE,

to say it is not too late to built a bridge,

so that we can find new ways to meet our choices, in order to escape.




An interesting and important dialogue between Jael Uribe and Glen Calleja developed once they started to get to know each other's works.

Glen Calleja:
What you say about being 'survivors of life' is a bit of a challenging concept to me. I don't think I have a position about that statement but to me the word 'survivors' suggests that we are here when really we shouldn't be...which I find a little difficult to digest and accept...  Such words are also problematic in that they allow some organisations to exploit the fear they suggest for commercial, political and private reasons...but that is another argument altogether.“
For an interview with Glen Calleja about his book of poetry about cancer, see /battling_the_clichs__glen_calleja#.VUfXFfmqqko
Jael Uribe:

      „When I mentioned the word survivor, I meant we battled hard times and raised, above all pain    and limitations...that's how I see it, apart from the old "cliché". I consider myself as my own hero, because I'm the only one who knows how hard and painful it was to stand up and go on. I do believe we deserve to be here, I do think of survivors as heroes of their own cause. Maybe my shortage of English can play games sometimes...but I just write as I feel words.“



Poets as Bridge makers


Francisco Alarcon writes that “for us

poets, borders do not exist and we as

poets are building human bridges

across national frontiers.”





 Poets as 'bridge búilders' cross over border like the butterflies do when they fly from Mexico up North into the United States, and four years later return again over the border to Mexico.


Light as Bridge - Continuity of Time



                        Sun set looking down Lycabettou Street in Athens        @HF 2014



Hatto Fischer

Berlin 1984 (2015)



Licht bleibt Licht

selbst wenn es ausbleibt,

und in der Dunkelheit

nichts zu sehen ist.


So tastet er sich vor

bis er sie berührt

und nüchtern wird

sobald er ihren Atem

in seinem Gesicht spürt.


Selbst wenn Liebe als Lichtquelle

ihn blendet, ja ihn aus Freude

wie ein Betrunkener

bis an den Rand ihres Schicksals

taumelt lässt, ergibt

das feste Konturen

an denen er sich fest halten kann.


Fühlt sie erst seine Wahrnehmung,

und streift Licht über ihre Haare,

huscht ein Lächeln übers ganze Gesicht.

So kann ihr Verstehen zur Brücke werden

die er hofft eines Tages zu überqueren

wohl wissend darunter fließt die Sprache

gleich einer imaginären Überzeugung

in eine Liebe die als Licht ihn sehen lässt.




Light remains light

even when extinguished,

and nothing to be seen

in the dark.


Hence he goes blindly ahead

until he touches her

and becomes sober

the moment he senses

her breath in his face.


Even when love as light source

blends him, indeed lets him

stumble out of a drunkenness

of happiness till he reaches

the outer border of her fate,

some contours take shape

on which he can take

a hold.


Once she feels his eyes resting on her

and light strokes her hair,

a smile hushes over her entire face

so that her understanding can become a bridge

he hopes one day to cross,

well knowing underneath flows a language

similar to an imaginative conviction

in a love which lets him see like light.




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