“Η πολιτική της φόρμας, του φύλου, της φυγής και της φλόγας”: Πρωτοεμφανιζόμενοι ποιητές (2011-2017)

Στοχαστική λογιοσύνη, γλωσσική εγρήγορση, επιτελεστική ετοιμότητα, αριστερή μελαγχολία και συνθετική φόρμα είναι τα πιό θετικά στοιχεία στην ποίηση της δεκαετίας.

Εδώ αναρτώ μια επισκόπηση που περιλαμβάνει έργα 30 συγγραφέων οι οποίοι εξέδωσαν τα πρώτα τους ένα ή δύο ποιητικά βιβλία από το 2011 ώς και το 2017.  Το κείμενό μου αρχίζει αμέσως μετά την σύντομη εισαγωγή του Μισέλ Φάις, ο οποίος επιμελήθηκε το αφιέρωμα “Χαρτογραφώντας την ποίηση του 21ου αιώνα:  Όψεις, διαθέσεις, ροπές” στην Εφημερίδα των Συντακτών της 25ης Νοεμβρίου 2018.  Η πολυφωνία των επιλογών μου μπορεί να θυμήσει σε κάποιους την Aria για σόλο φωνή όπου ο John Cage ζήτησε από την Cathy Berberian να ερμηνεύσει λέξεις σε πέντε γλώσσες και δέκα είδη τραγουδιού, καθώς και πλήθος ήχων.

30 Νοεμβρίου 2018

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Posted in Greek Poetry, Greeks

“Παίζουμε ένα ποίημα;”/1: Ένο Αγκόλλι: “Θερμοπύλες” (η ποιητική παράδοση)

Ένα καινούργιο κείμενό μου για την στάση της καινούργιας ελληνικής ποίησης απέναντι στην ποιητική παράδοση.

Οι ποιητές της νέας γενιάς, που έχω αποκαλέσει «κληρονόμους του Καβάφη», μεγάλωσαν μετά την ήττα των Ελλήνων στις Θερμοπύλες τη δεκαετία του 2000 και μετεωρίζονται στην κόψη της «επιστροφής» του Νίτσε και της «επανάληψης» του Ντελέζ.

https://www.hartismag.gr/hartis-1/klimakes/paizoyme-ena-poihma

January 1, 2019

Posted in Greek Poetry | Tagged ,

Four years of blogging on a collaborative friendship

There is no Friendship, only great friends, each one incomparable and irreplaceable.

With this post I am marking 4 years and 220 posts of my regular blogging on piano, poetry, and politics in dialogue with such a friend, Dr. Pantelis Polychronidis, a total collaborative pianist and my Aristotelian “other self.”

Great friendships flourish by making selves happen, ideas strike, works egress, and places sail.  They spin chaos into fugues and create worlds:

December 25, 2018

 

Posted in Friends

Daniel Herwitz: “Avant-Garde Legacies: Identity Politics in a Consumerist World”

What is the legacy of the avant-garde today?  My dear friend and colleague at Michigan, Daniel Herwitz, and I spent one of our regular lunches together exploring this question.  As I was telling him that my ten-part travelogue across five centuries of Central European revolts would end at Cabaret Voltaire, we started wondering where subversive cultural activism might be agitating today and what its targets might be.  Daniel, who is an exceptional philosopher and cultural theorist, offered to write a piece for my blog addressing the question of the avant-garde, and I promised to host it right after my Cabaret Voltaire post.  I am very pleased and proud to host it here.

Clicking on this and on the next link takes you to the pdf:  Herwitz – Avant garde legacies

December 17, 2018

Posted in Crisis, Culture, Left, Resistance, Revolt, The Arts | Tagged

The 1916 Event “Cabaret Voltaire” in Zürich (Travels in revolutionary Mitteleuropa, from the Rhine to the Danube/10-end)

If rebels are damned and comrades turn into hermits, is it still possible to join friends in planning together the next revolt?

In fact it is possible, especially among emigrés in a cosmopolitan city, as I remembered when I took a short walk away from Rodin’s Gates of Hell in Zürich to consult the oracle of all modern revolt.

The Cabaret Voltaire was a cabaret that was operated on Spiegelgasse 1 [= mirror street!] between February-June 1916 by young writers and artists, friends among the refugees from across war-torn Europe, in the back room of a small tavern in a disreputable quarter of German-speaking Zürich in neutral Switzerland. Spoken word, music, dance, and art were all used in performance, often simultaneously. Walking around the place, I thought they might sound like the Sheffield band that in 1973 took their name, asking the customers “Why Kill Time (When You Can Kill Yourself)“.

Performances were improvisatory, experimental, multilingual, collaborative, egalitarian, episodic, heterotopic, raucous, and increasingly chaotic, perplexing, subversive, and confrontational. Participants deployed humor, satire, mockery, chance, nonsense, negation, spectacle, and increasingly cacophony, excess, absurdity, and collision. Proceedings were driven by an overarching urgency to interrogate and reinvent languages, codes, norms, and media.

In its very short life the project of Cabaret Voltaire moved rapidly from entertainment to total artwork to provocation to subversion. Essentially it was a cultural Event that exploded into existence, lasted for less than six months, and stopped before its inescapable aestheticization and normalization. As soon as it acquired a manifesto and announced its evolution into a movement, even a counter-movement (namely, Dada), it dissolved with impeccable integrity — and quickly spread to other metropolitan centers such as Berlin, Paris, and New York.

There was a strong anarchist dimension in the way its members and their collaborators lived and created without leadership and with daily participation and negotiation. Some participants had explicit anarchist sympathies, none more than the German pioneer of all things avant-garde, Hugo Ball (1886-1927), who in 1910 finished a thesis on Nietzsche, in 1914 started working on a Bakunin anthology, in 1915 published in revolutionary magazines and met Gustav Landauer, and in 1916, seeking to realize anarchist theory in cultural practice, he initiated Cabaret Voltaire and wrote its Dada manifesto. While the Talking Heads set his famous sound poem to music, it is rather unfortunate that Tom Stoppard did not include him as a character in his dazzling play Travesties (1974), which takes place in 1917 Zürich and features Tzara, Lenin, and Joyce.

Each element and component in the cabaret proceedings claimed its unique moment in history on the basis of a bold approach: Nothing inaugurated something lasting, everything was constantly born anew since everything was collaborative, performative and experimental. There was no coherence or continuity. Like its targets, subversion kept shifting; like its members, friendship kept floating. What the project left behind when the place closed in the summer of 1916 was not a canon of works, a network of structures, or a repertoire of styles but an aesthetics of performative life and an ethics of revolutionary friendship – what Foucault called “the dramaturgy of revolutionary lived experience” (“There Can’t be Societies without Uprisings” [1979], Foucault Studies 25, 2018, p. 336).

After 1848 Prague and 1849 Dresden, 1916 Zürich (in Ball’s writings) was the third time and place where I encountered Bakunin in my October journey.  I had traveled across five centuries (1414-1916) and five rivers (Rhine, Limmat, Elbe, Moldau, and Danube).  I had followed the path of revolutionary friendship through the short-lived rebellion of several radical communes in Mitteleuropa, from the Hussites to the Dadaists.  I had traced the iconoclasms of “political spirituality” (329) from the pre-Protestant crisis of Christianity to the revolutionary hope of secular messianism.  I had even recovered from the disturbance of my memory in Weimar.  It was time to return home and map my explorations.

Before leaving town, I took a loving look at the last river of my journey, the Limmat, which commences at the outfall of Lake Zürich. By following its course with my eyes I thought I saw the flow of Dada as it started to spread from the dark nightclub to the entire world. I also saw the flow of the “socialist revolution” of Lenin, who lived on Spiegelgasse 12, diagonally opposite to the Cabaret Voltaire, reach the Finland Station in St. Petersburg in 1917, and the flow of the literary revolution of James Joyce, a “socialist artist,” reach Paris in 1920, together with the flow in all directions of innovative work by other refugees in the cosmopolitan Zürich of the 1910s.  All these very different intellectuals saw it as their task, through their collaborative friendships, to create new flows in order “to multiply the occasions to rise up against the real that is given us” (343).

Cabaret Voltaire was not a political project and did not threaten a regime. But its collective passage of a few revolutionary friends “through a rather brief moment in time” was a radical experiment in cultural revolt which reaffirmed civic solidarity.  It always reminds me of Pantelis’ favorite Foucault passage:  “If societies persist and live, that is, if the powers that be are not ‘utterly absolute,’ it is because, behind all the submissions and coercions, beyond the threats, the violence, and the intimidations, there is the possibility of that moment when life can no longer be bought, when the authorities can no longer do anything, and when, facing the gallows and the machine guns, people revolt” (“Useless to Revolt?” [1979], in Foucault, Essential Works 3, pp. 449-50).

December 2, 2018

Posted in Autonomy, Collaboration, Culture, Literature, Revolt, The Arts | Tagged

The 1912 Friends as “Hermits” in Vienna (Travels in revolutionary Mitteleuropa, from the Rhine to the Danube/9)

If revolutions fail and rebels are damned, what happens to friends like my two favorite comrades conspiring in Caspar Friedrich’s painting in 1819 Dresden?   If they do not plan the next revolt, what do they talk about when they contemplate the moon in their walks?

I found an answer when, in October, I encountered a painting of two other friends at the Leopold Museum in Vienna at the exhibition Egon Schiele:  The Jubilee Show, marking the 100th anniversary of the Viennese painter’s death at twenty eight.   The contrast between Schiele’s painting, The Hermits (1912), and Friedrich’s Two Men, separated by almost two centuries, could not be greater.

Like the Romantic painting, the Expressionist one shows two close friends who are painters (probably Schiele and Gustav Klimt, nearly thirty years his senior), a younger (star pupil) and an older one (his mentor). They stand on a slightly inclined ground, against a fractured background and close to two wilting roses.  They lean on each other for support:  While Friedrich’s student rests his arm on his shoulder, here Klimt rests his head on Schiele’s shoulder.  While the Friedrich figures are physically close but attuned to the place and the moment, the two life-size, black-robed Schiele figures are intertwined, attuned only to each other, almost entangled in an atmosphere of tension and anxiety, with only one hand of each person and a single foot appearing.  The Romantic music of the spheres and the song of the comrades have fallen silent in the Expressionist waste land.  “Think of these two as being like a cloud of dust similar to this Earth, a cloud which wants to grow into something more but must necessarily collapse, its strength spent” (Schiele).

The fates of the two painters were “twisted” in a most creative way as they influenced and inspired one another.  “With a relationship based on mutual respect, Klimt and Schiele continued to support and guide each other through the art world.”  In the painting, their friendship appears stronger because it lacks outside support from nature and society.  The more distant they are from any kind of living environment, the closer they cling to each other, two figures melted into a double-figure.  They are Die Eremiten who have become almost physically each other’s self as they have retreated in their private world, a “mourning world” (Schiele) bereft of all revolutionary hope.  In Schiele’s fin de siècle world, where desire is guilt-free and unbound, where the carnal and the spiritual have become indissoluble, there is no faith or morality like Rodin’s against which people may rebel.

After my encounter with this haunted painting, I left the exhibition with a heavy heart, wondering whether Schiele and Klimt ever sat together by the Danube.  I looked for my own “other self,” Dr. Pantelis Polychronidis, at the cafe where we usually go after our visits to the Leopold Museum.

He was not there.

November 30, 2018

Posted in Crisis, Friends, The Arts, The Double | Tagged , ,

The 1910 Rebels’ “Hell” in Paris (Travels in revolutionary Mitteleuropa, from the Rhine to the Danube/8)

Near the end of my brief journey across Central European rivers and revolts, Rodin’s The Gates of Hell (1880-1917) appears to me as a memorial to the perennial, tragic failure of the revolution and the damnation of the rebels.

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) worked on this 7mX4m monumental portal for 37 years, and left it unfinished, as it had become his life-project.  He exhibited only one version of it in 1900 at the Great Exhibition.  At various stages of its development the sculpture included some 200 figures.  The copy that I saw at the Kunsthaus Zürich is one of eight bronze casts that were made after the artist’s death, and includes 186 figures.

Rodin’s composition contains no direct political references though its literary, mythological, historical and other sources are open to political interpretation, above all the infamous leader of Pisa, Count Ugolino, a traitor to his party and city, who was deposed, arrested, and starved to death in 1288, following a popular uprising against his rule.  Yet, in light of all the failed revolts that I have been encountering in my journey, I realize that numerous figures at these Gates are punished for rebelling against norms, rules, principles, and customs.  In a personal way, they are revolutionaries too.  They are the rebels of pleasure, passion, and power, the sinners of need and desire who are now suffering loss, agony, pain, and despair.  Transgression has been their sacrilegious declaration of personal autonomy.  Offering not a morality tale but an existential allegory, the gates of the hell of individual revolution are a tapestry of transgressive, guilty passions.

Rodin’s rebels have been seen as caught between freedom and necessity, enduring the “fateful grandeur of Greek drama” (Judith Cladel: Rodin, 1917, p. 20).  While Dante condemned them to eternal torment, Rodin remained endlessly fascinated with their defiance, and kept adding new figures to his work.  In La Divina Commedia(1308-20), destiny is dispensed and regulated by Fortune.  In contrast to the erratic favors of the pagan fickle goddess, central to Inferno 7, Rodin’s primary source of inspiration, is “the question of free will in relation to man’s changing circumstances as administered by the goddess Fortune” (Aida Audeh:  “Rodin’s Gates of Helland Dante’s Inferno 7, Studies in Medievalism22, 2013, p. 116).  God’s will works through Fortune who distributes earthly goods according to divine providence.   Her actions “represent perfect order – symbolized by the perfect circle of her wheel and its rotation.  It is, in fact, the Avaricious and Prodigal who are ‘blind’ and ‘deaf’ to Fortune and to God’s larger order.  Their contrapasso [Dante’s original word for punishment corresponding to their sin], in which they turn in incomplete half-circles for eternity, embodies the imperfection and limitation of their understanding” (121).  Sinners reject providence and its plans for humans, and claim for themselves what they think they truly deserve.  The naturalistic revolution of the fortune’s perfect wheel, which described a circular movement, has become to them the revolution of history, a radical break with cyclical time and necessity.

Two symbolic fallen figures on the Gates personify the doomed rebel.  The first is an angel:  “Beneath [illicit lovers] Paolo and Francesca, forming a linear complement to them, lies the prostrate form of an angel.  A broken wing is draped over its eyes, and a wheel is held in its down-stretched hand.  The angel may symbolize these subject to Fortune, mentioned by Dante in the Seventh canto. … By including angels like this in Hell, Rodin may have sought to show the supreme irony that this is a world of total disillusion and complete fall from grace.  Throughout the portal are other angels, plummeting downward or otherwise not at rest” (Albert E. Elsen:  Rodin’s Gates of Hell, 1960, p. 93).

Rodin’s angels remind me of my visit to the Bruegel exhibition in Vienna a few days earlier, and of his Fall of the Rebel Angels (1562), mentioned in an earlier post, which he painted when “the old narrative of the fall of the rebel angels was given a particularly contemporary twit on the eve of the Dutch revolt. … Rebellion against the king was equivalent to rebellion against God himself” (Meganck:  Bruegel: Fall of the Rebel Angels, 2014, 158).  Bruegel’s monstrous falling angels probably warned that those who rebel against the king-given political order will suffer the same punishment with the followers of Lucifer who rebelled against the God-given cosmic order.

The other symbolic fallen figure is the son of Dedalus:  “The subject of the Gates has as its focal point the theme of Icarus.  This theme was frequently expressed in Baudelaire’s poetry and Rodin’s drawings and sculpture.  The fruitless voyage in the poet’s verses and the climbing, striving figures in the Gates are all variations of this theme” (Elsen 134).  Man’s “eternal torment lies in the knowledge that his passions – his strivings – will never end.  Unlike the damned in Dante’s Hell, those in the Gates are not resigned to their fate.  Like Icarus, one of the figures in the portal seeks to escape the world that holds him prisoner, to join his spirit with the infinite.  We sense that this figure, who clings to the tympanum at the left, has struggled up through the crowds below to reach his ‘horizon.’ After attaining it, and seeing what lies beyond, he sinks back once more” (135).

Above the Gates, the melancholic Thinker (part Michelangelo’s prophet Jeremiah, part Carpeaux’s count Ugolino) surveys the tragic scene of doom and despair, pondering the fate of human rebellion against divine fortuna.  “We recall that Rodin has placed the Thinker, simultaneously Dante and Everyman, in the place of Christ in medieval Last Judgment tympanum sculpture.  Where Christ acts as fierce judge, the Thinker, as a mortal and fallible individual having achieved in the modern world a position of unprecedented autonomy and power, seems neither to judge nor to act. Rather, he sits hunched over, melancholy, turning inward upon himself as he gazes blankly past the wreckage of hell below him, oblivious to those behind him who are soon to fall into the abyss. While Dante rests the possibility of salvation on man’s capacity for choice, the Thinker on the Gates of Hellseems to remain uncommitted, choosing no path, in tension between the straight way and the dark wood as Fortune turns her wheel, blissfully unaware of his plight” (136-37).  Working on this monumental piece in the years between 1871 and 1917, the republican Rodin is gazing at the earthly inferno of rebellious autonomy as it is engulfing not only the figures but the work itself.

Gradually, the perfectly planned composition, which Rodin was estimating to complete in three years, rebelled against its own original structure:  the damned kept multiplying, the order bursting, the arrangement fluctuating, the movement derailing, the narrative shrinking, the figures and scenes acquiring independence and becoming separate works, the sculpture invading architecture, the synthesis fragmenting, and the entire work soon became open-ended and was left unfinished as it mutated stylistically, thematically, and philosophically from Symbolism to Expressionism.  “Rodin’s violent play on human actions and sufferings seen in The Gates of Hellwas a preamble to the expressionistic distortions of the human figure, and disturbing visual and thematic representations in the twentieth century” (Liana De Girolami Cheney:  Rodin’s Gates of Hell, Italian Culture11: 1, 1993, p. 116).  This moved very close to Egon Schiele’s private hell.  Like the Expressionists, “Rodin presents us with the nonsocial human in his private existence rather than with the social being. … The Expressionists’ feelings about man’s hopelessness, estrangement, and sense of loss in the vast universe are already present in the Gates” (Elsen 141).

November 28, 2018

Posted in Melancholy, Revolt, The Arts | Tagged