Mood and performance in an assembled poets’ common

The most innovative part of the large-scale literary, critical, and translingual project in which the Generation of the 2000s has been consistently engaged for some ten years now is the performative production of poetry. When presenting their work, these new Greek poets are dispensing with the standard territorial arrangement of Critic praising, Friend reminiscing, Actress reciting, and Author commenting, and they restructure the occasion to foreground people’s position rather than place. In addition, they favor medial hybridity, boldly mixing arts, codes, and genres.

As a result, public readings and book launchings often represent neither well-behaved presentations nor well-worn happenings. Rather, they work as non-hierarchical performative gatherings attended by people from all paths of life who just like to show, share, shake, and shine together. Their popularity turns single events into series and cycles of readings. Never have Greek writers summoned so much support for each other, and solidarity with their readers.

Most importantly, these aggregations do not just assemble people who enjoy making poetry together – writers, lovers, critics, painters, listeners, musicians, physicians et al. They gather the refugees from the multitude, those displaced from, and disaffected with, Dionysian insurgencies. They assemble the common of the melancholics who do not entirely fit in the barricades of the aganaktismenoi/indignados, the demands of the demonstrations, the occupations of the squares, the celebrations of the OXI referendum, the affirmations of the Gay Pride parades, and the provocations of avant-garde events.

People who believe that the current hegemony is honest and creative, and things are steadily getting better, remain committed to reason, put together panels, participate in conferences, and attend roundtable discussions – all of them important and laudable activities. On the other hand, the Greek poetry of the 2000s assembles those who feel betrayed by the party, let down by the movement, marginalized by the group, abandoned by the comrades, and yet refuse to give up on the Left (exactly as my dearest friends at the brilliant literary periodical Simeioseis have been doing since their early writings). They may be stirred by “revolutionary pessimism” (Heiner Müller), “active nihilism” (Gianni Vattimo), “tragic post-coloniality” (David Scott), “lost causes” (Slavoj Žižek), or “mystical anarchism” (Simon Critchley).

All those people contribute to the Left Melancholy “atmosphere” of the poetic gatherings their own Stimmung/mood in ways that defy consolation and resist despair. Among the three revolutionary principles, instead of the égalité of the public sphere, they pursue the fraternité of the common, the integrity and dignity of solidarity that no betrayal can wound. Through the practices and performances of solidarity they seek friends with whom they can listen and contemplate together. That is how my friendship with Pantelis Polychronidis, my “other self,” emerged.

It sounds solemn but it is not. It plays more like the hilarious, gigantic, explicitly self-reflexive fugue for a nonet of singers (yes, 9 leading voices!) that concludes the last scene of Verdi’s last opera (1892). After a midnight masquerade of wrong expectations and false identities, of masks and costumes, Falstaff and his friends emerge out of the shadows of Windsor Park, assemble in the open, and appear to one another, only to discover that, since “all the world’s a stage,” they have all been performing in a theatrum mundi. Listen to their voices joining, interacting, countervailing:  It sounds like another bitterly funny poetry night at a bookstore in Athens, Thessaloniki, Drama, Kavala, Larisa, Patra, Halkida, or almost any other Greek city these days.

Everything in the world is a jest./Man is born a jester.

In his mind, his reason/Is wavering always.

All mocked! All mortals/Taunt one another,

But he laughs well who has the last laugh.  [Translated by William Weaver]

 

Tutto nel mondo é burla./L’uom é nato burlone,

La fede in cor gli ciurla,/Gli ciurla la ragione.

Tutti gabbati! Irride/L’un l’altro ogni mortal./Ma ride ben chi ride/La risata final.

January 28, 2016

 

 

 

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