The Greek Greats: The Austerity Songs
It seems that good poetry always comes on the heels of deep suffering and today’s Greek poets are no different. And my, how the Greeks have suffered in recent decades since the 20th century, with wars, political turmoil, deep national economic deprivation and natural disasters such as the massive wildfires that claimed many lives in recent decades,
Now after suffering under a right wing dictatorship sympathetic to to the Neo-Nazis in the 60’s and the 70’s and a Turkish war, the Greek people are teeter-tottering under such a massive national dept that the new, more liberal government, along with the big banks, have had to slash spending to the bare bones by drastically cutting government services, pensions and jobs, calling this official government policy Austerity Measures, and what is currently emerging in today’s Greece is a giant collective groan being emitted by a glut of contemporary Greek poets called austerity poets, and an important book in the Greek language, also translated into English, entitled Austerity Measures,
And with the Greek people being just as poetic and soulful as their ancestors, these austerity poets are everywhere. They are publishing in books, magazines, the internet and even as graffiti on walls in public spaces: and then there are the performing arts poets that are reciting their poems and singing their songs in the city square and theaters like the story tellers and poets of old. And while much of this contemporary literary art touches the reader’s heart with Greek despair, disillusionment and a depth of anger and fury describing the national landscape, some poets like #Dailywisdomwords own Greek poet, Alexis Karpouzos, who write softly spiritual verses about nature that elevate the reader above the country’s economic and political fray.
In this first poem Poetess Ebtychia Panayiotou expresses her disillusionment in one short but sweeping verse:
I woke at sunrise to change
the window, warped from looking
across, slicing my view.
I open the shutters, wild
from the wind and misfortune,
In this exceedingly short, almost haiku-like poem she describes herself as awakening fully expecting to see a new day full of changes, but actually experiences having her view being spliced by reality and herself becoming “warped by looking across” at what actually transpires in Greece and she’s “made wild by the winds and misfortune.” Outside conditions for her have not changed for the better; it was outside conditions that actually changed her on the inside. But Poet Elena Penga writes of her nation’s collective despair and likens it to her neighbor’s barren cheery trees:
The cheery trees in the neighbor’s yard haven’t had fruit
for years. Four men enter the neighbor’s yard carrying sticks. They enter the
neighbor’s yard along with the rain, They’ve come to
discipline the trees and chop them down if they don’t
blossom. I watch the men hit the trees. I watch the rain
hit the men.
Perhaps she is saying here that the trees is the unproductive government that may have to be chopped down in a new revolution by the “men carrying sticks”. But online poet Jazra Khaleed expresses his absolute political rage and the inwardly ugly feelings that post-modern life has kindled in this present time by writing:
“The leopards are caged like KFC hens. And the poets? The poets are quiet again. Fuck off, flower poets.”
This poet rejects the traditional Greek ideals of truth and the beauty of man and the natural world and deviates sharply from the poetic forms, myths and the philosophy of his ancestors by thinking that a poet’s only job is to call out the wrong doings of modern man, and is, in a sense much like an old testament prophet calling out the wrongs of the government and the people,
But DWW’s own poet Alexis Karpouzos is one poet who still loves nature and is a bit of a throwback to Plato’s meta-physical world when he wrote:
I Love a Flower
I love a flower.
I stretch my hand
and touch his soft leaves
and it sends me a sweet smell.
It’s tacit love,
in a sense of wonder
we found in each other
secret signals from another life
that bring poetry to my heart.
He also asks the universe a meta-physical question when he wrote:
“who am I or am I not?
The universe responded immediately:
‘you asked me the same thing billions of years ago.
And then and now I answer:
You’re the smile of no birth and no death,
The great promise.
Karpouzos thus writes beyond the physical world of his compatriots as he touches the secret heart of another life and asks as questions of the universe,
This is the conclusion of my series on the Greek poets, actors and story tellers. They brought the Western world great art and literature, and was the cradle country of occidental logic and science, and they are still on an Odyssey to overcome insurmountable obstacles like their heroes of olden times, but unfortunately what they lack today is a hero to save them.