* the friday influence

The sawdust that fell from your hair, I find in my poem today.

(Monochord #330, Yannis Ritsos)


For today’s Friday Influence, I present the work of the Greek poet Yannis Ritsos (1909 – 1990).

The above is from a series entitled “Monochords” that was written in one month while in exile, August 1979.  Reading through them you get a sense of urgency and consideration, an immediacy that brings to mind the best haiku and tanka.

I believe that a poet’s relationship to form changes over time, until, if so fated (meaning it is inevitable in the poet’s growth and engagement with form) a form becomes his or her own.  There is, for example, Allen Ginsberg who takes the standard seventeen syllable English form of haiku and rolls it out all out in one sentence, calling them “American Sentences”.

In his Monochords, I see Ritsos reaching out and taking note of what he sees in life, using the sentence as a sort of pocket for an image or thought.

I plan to share more of my ideas on how forms change shape with the poet and vice versa in the future.

For now, here is another poem from Ritsos that showcases his eye for detail and in which he empties his pockets further for us.



He picks up in his hands things that don’t match – a stone

a broken roof-tile, two burned matches,

the rusty nail from the wall opposite,

a left that came through the window, the drops

dropping from the watered flowerpots, that bit of straw

the wind blew in  your hair yesterday – he takes them

and he builds, in his backyard, approximately a tree.

Poetry is in this “approximately.”  Can you see it?


Happy approximating!


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