Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

The difference between silence and silences - Katerina's voice making a difference by Hatto Fischer (2006)

Part 1: Silence and language

When asked how she understands the poet's relation to silence, Katerina Anghelaki Rooke refers to quite another silence than what Michel Foucault and other philosophers have in mind. Indicative is that Katerina Anghelaki Rooke overturns the need to idealize everything by showing that not everything is perfect, including "silence". With this remark or observation she departs from an orthodox belief system, and shows that two prime directions of listening matter: the "sobs of impotence" when she listens as to what goes on outside, and what she hears when in monologue with her soul. Both directions free her from the need to succumb to silence.


I have lost my faith in silence


I have lost my faith in silence;
It is not pure, it is not romantic, it doesn’t hide
Love’s whispers
Or the next musical phrase of a pastoral symphony.
Ferociously it stifles the sobs of impotence
It feeds an eternal threat.
I was well disposed
So was the day in the morning
We didn’t notice
The mute stubbornness that muzzles
The awareness of tomorrow
And prevents you from hearing
The noisy ectoplasms of fear…
Oh! Yes I am afraid as well!
But I still struggle not to go deaf
I want to hear all the sobbing
And carry on the monologue
With the voice of my soul.

Katerina Anghelaki Rooke, from: Translating Into Life’s End into Love

The fear of silence is to be experienced in the imagination. Once man finds himself completely alone in the universe, silence dominates all other motives. He may answer by creating first noise, then discovers sounds in his voice and turns to singing to be followed by music. Insofar as the tone helps create the memory track as the most differentiated way of remembering, the human being acquires over memories another sense of life. It has a past, present and future.

Naturally such consciousness can make all the more visible the fact that life is finite. Surrounded by silence which lets him hear all kinds of thoughts, it can make man flee into the street where noises of life await him. That is to be welcome as it is taken as a sign of life, indeed as a clear indication of being alive. One no longer hears only one's own breathing, but the shouts of the other.

Robert Paine in his marvellous book about 'Ancient Greece' stressed the fact that no one knew better than the Ancient Greeks to argue, to bargain, to shout and to play in the street theatre, if only to trick his fellow men to think this drama is real and not the one on the stage. Still today any visitor to Greece can easily mistake such shouting match as a serious fight and draw the wrong conclusions. Others modify their perception and ask simply do they have to speak that loud.

Certainly it makes Athens one of the loudest cities with everything from loud motor scooters to people talking lively in their favorite place, the street cafes as loudly as they can to demonstrate to each other that they are indeed alive.

Part 2: Silence and language

No better place then to meet Greek poetess Katerina Anghelaki Rooke, god child of Nikos Kazantzakis, translator and writer of poetry with a natural philosophical bend, than at Phileon, the café on Skoufa in Kolonaki, the famous district near the Greek Parliament and located at the foot of the Lycabettus Hill overlooking the noisy streets down below.

Already when approaching the cafe, one could hear usually her booming voice calling either the waiter for another beer or else when a friend would be passing by. No one minds her using her voice. For everyone knows Katerina Anghelaki Rooke.


Phileon Cafe in Kolonaki, Athens

Katerina had written a piece ‘silence and silences’ for the opening of the Kids’ Guernica exhibition to be held in Kastelli, Crete from April 20 to April 24, 2006 – the time of Greek Easter. So when I found her at Philion, I asked her to read the text despite the place being quite noisy to say the least. Her voice can be heard distinctively, that is loud and clear. The piece has the following title>

Silence and Silences

"Silence is a herd, a swarm of birds that you see from afar, rising slowly and covering the sky. It is the troupe of actors that bows to the public. But within a herd every sheep has only one heart that beats. Within a swarm every bird has only one pair of wings. And the actor is alone each time he risks to be rejected.

So a silence includes endless amount of silences. There is the silence of sweet expectation. It unfolds within you like a piece of paper all around the bunch of flowers that you are waiting to receive. It is a seductive silence because you impose it; you don’t want anything to be heard besides the announcement of a resurrection, of an arrival, of the end of loneliness.

There is the silence of the babbling everydayness, when you are deafened by the buzzing of all the stupidities that man has invented so that he won’t hear the silence.

There is the silence of creation. A crowd of wounds and the one struggles to close the mouth of the other. Which is the deepest? She is the one that will talk. Rivalry in depth.

There is the silence of emptiness. You look into the eyes of the other human beings and you know that whatever he was able to understand in you he has already said it. The rest is silence.

But you’ll keep approaching the great silence the herd, the swarm and you’ll be more and more certain that this silence you’ll never experience because you contain it entirely. It is you that will be the great silence of the end."

There remains open, or at least for the moment unanswered, how to take up the dialogue with the silence in oneself?

Part 3: Silence and language

Katerina Anghelaki Rooke has written another philosophical poem about silence. She describes what it means to leave silence undisturbed, as if to say only then the sounds of the soul can be heard. Since soul is in dispute as if it never exists, as many philosophers would claim, righty so the poets seeks to refute such a philosophical premise at one poetic stroke. Katerina Anghelaki Rooke does so by expressing another philosophical premise, insofar as she writes "striking clashes are forbidden." Like the knot which should be carefully untied, and not be simply cut through, poetry means working with resistance. That resistance stems mainly from silence. Consequently non violence means that not all means are allowed before an audible word is born out of silence.


The Transcription of a Nightmare


For a nightmare to become a poem

The silence must be undisturbed by creakings

Of the soul, the heart or other organs

Of the inorganic chemistry of existence.

The silence may be occupied by colors

But striking clashes are forbidden:

Black with rose

Or with the much-sung blue of eyes.

Perhaps a bit of earthy brown

The bronze of a withered leaf

Or white with brownish spots from a dog's neck.

Once the night mare has reached its full height

It must undergo a series of operations.

With great dexterity every trace

Of reasonable doubt must be removed

And then without anesthesia

Something of inborn human kindness

Must be transplanted there.

The most difficult surgery

Is to cut it away from fear.

This you achieve by immersing

The bad dream unremittingly

In the holiness of nature.

And then the poem springs up;

Leave by tiny leaf

Blossom by blossom

Quite frail at first, trembling

It rises from the black earth that nourished it

And dares.

It dares to dream

The antidote of agony

The Word.


Katerina Anghelaki Rooke

(Taken from the book ‘The scattered papers of Penelope’, London: Anvil Press Poetry, 2008)


Note: This was originally written for heritage radio under following title:

Katerina Anghelaki Rooke – Greek poetess in noisy Athens about the difference between silence and silences

Category: Arts & Artists

By: Hatto Fischer, Athens, 2006



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Updated: 27.5.2016

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