Commemorating Defeat

Writer Vyron Leontaris, who died at 83 yesterday, on August 6, 2014, was the leading member of the so-called 2nd post-WWII generation of Greek poets. More importantly, he was a tremendous thinker who reflected on poetry itself in terms of “defeat.” He argued that modern poetry commemorates the historically inevitable defeat of the Revolution and also that fundamentally Poetry defeats itself. Few poets in literary history thought about the destiny of verse more radically, more uncompromisingly than Leontaris.

More than any Greek writer he was in an urgent dialogue with the Western tradition. He had a comprehensive and probing command of the literary canon. His intertextual references were encyclopedic, his rhymes dazzling. Listening to his verses one feels that anything written after them is redundant.  [A year after his death, as the era of political melancholy is in full bloom, his readers also feel that in 2015 the Greek Left has been providing powerful historical and philosophical arguments in support of his despair.]

I have called his book-length poem μόνον διά της λύπης… /by sorrow alone “a foundational poem against all foundations.”

August 7, 2014

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