The First Step

Vagia Kalfa

Translated by: Paschalis Nikolaou and Richard Berengarten

Artwork by Šarūnas Burdulis

There are many young poets

like yourself, Eumenes. They approach

asking to be told exactly

when the miracle will occur.

They seek guidance, reassurances,

and somehow they manage to extract

a few words of praise –

and so the likes

of Theocritus have grown skeptical.


Eumenes, if writing is for you

the need that simply won’t be denied,

do not pay attention 

to such consolations –

because there is no City of Ideas

nor are there Legislators to bestow titles.

Νobody is there to guarantee you anything.

There is only you, dedicated to this task,

for you know well enough

though it may be no small thing

this first step, Eumenes,

isn’t really so high.

Vagia Kalfa
Vagia Kalfa was born in Alexandroupolis, Greece in 1983. She studied Greek Literature at Democritus University of Thrace and holds an M.A. from the University of Birmingham. Her debut collection, Απλά Πράγματα (‘Simple Things’) was published to wide acclaim in 2012, and won the inaugural Yannis Varveris Prize. It was also named best new collection from the Athens Academy. Her second collection was published in late 2013.

Paschalis Nikolaou and Richard Berengarten
Paschalis Nikolaou has co-edited Translating Selves: Experience and Identity between Languages and Literatures (Continuum, 2008) and is reviews editor for the translation journal mTm. With Richard Berengarten, he co-edited The Perfect Order: Selected Poems 1974-2010 by the Greek poet Nasos Vayenas (Anvil Press Poetry, 2010). He is a lecturer at the Ionian University in Corfu, Greece.

Richard Berengarten is a poet who lives in Cambridge. His Selected Writings are published by Shearsman Books, so far in six volumes. See: His latest book is Manual. See also the Volta Project for versions of one of his poems in 93 languages: