Is it possible for people to assemble (as opposed to merely gather) without getting indignant, becoming multitude, occupying, or exiting? It should be, but it might take strategies of refusal (in addition to tactics of resistance), like those deployed by the Greek “renegade poetics” of intermittent insurgency.
I have argued that the crisis of Greek poetry prefigured the “poetry of the crisis,” and more generally that the crisis of Left culture preceded the crisis of Left politics in 2015.
How did Greek poetry manage to move from its artistic crisis of the 1990s to its secessionist autonomism of the 2000s and beyond? To expand on my argument in the previous post, I list here 10 specific strategies that made it possible for poetry to emerge out of its crisis of legitimacy with a robust melancholic conviction, and assemble its autonomist politics in civic spaces of artistic performativity. Together, these strategies constitute both an intellectual mood and a creative domain.
First, 5 specific projects of secession:
1. The eclipse of French sensibility among poets. For the first time since the late 19th century, the allure of the Parisian language, poetry, café, and magazine has evaporated.
2. Absence of explicit support for Syriza through writing, serving, or other direct involvement. Not a single poet acts in public as a supporter. Long before the party came to power, the generation of the 2000s was already post-Syriza.
3. No poet pursues the avant-garde; code-breaking and noise-making are obsolete since audiences are no longer shocked. Experimentation now rehearses the resonant possibilities of mixture and hybridity.
4. The notion of the arboreal has been evacuated as organic, wholistic, and consequential aspirations have been abandoned for nomadic pursuits.
5. Painting as the favorite art has faded, with the pictorial surviving only in some photographic projects. Music is the new central sister art, providing a broadly shared vocabulary, repertoire, and frame of reference.
In addition to these 5 acts of secession, here are 5 exercises in self-fashioning popular among young poets:
6. High-quality academic training in a great variety of fields, often at the graduate level as well, which of course requires familiarity with epistemological issues. As a result, this is the first generation of writers who do not just know Theory but actually do it in their own work.
7. Almost everybody has lived abroad, and many still do. These poets are neither refugees from “lost motherlands” nor émigrés. They are the new Greek global diaspora: cosmopolitan intellectuals at home anywhere who do not nurture a sense of nostos.
8. Critical reflection (be it review, essay, column, or interview) is cultivated together with poetry. In contrast to recent generations, whose learning and thinking were minimal, these poets are impressively well versed in major works and contested issues.
9. Professional and personal solidarity, both in public and in private, along the lines of civic friendship is a dominant mode of communication. Poets appear together all the time in physical, virtual, print, social, and other environments.
10. Social media is an integral part of their network and communication. These poets remain connected and are intensely aware of each other’s work and plans. Much of the time they exude an endearing enthusiasm as they celebrate everybody’s work in a convivial spirit of incessant creativity.*
A concluding observation of special significance. Post-structuralist problematic, kept until recently outside of Greek scholarship and criticism, has finally arrived in the literary sphere – with a vengeance. Since the 1970s, Modern Greek Studies in Greece (and much of the rest of Europe) has fought fiercely and successfully to keep literary theory, cultural studies, constructivist thought, and every single post-modern methodological inquiry out of research and criticism in general. This led to a self-fulfilling academic and literary isolation, which seemed to please most scholars and authors.
When the poetry of Left Melancholy appeared,with its superior learning, philosophical awareness, and political sophistication, its poets knew that they could not expect much from general criticism, let alone scholarly study, and immediately took their circulation and reception in their hands, producing systematically the criticism of their own work. This is how theoretical reflection has made it belatedly to Greek literary thought, from queer studies to digital humanities and from translation theory to autonomist politics.
My own interest in this landmark generation continues to benefit from my collaborations with a distinguished representative of this youthful cosmopolitan Hellenism, collaborative pianist and faculty Pantelis Polychronidis, my heteros eautos.
* In addition to poets already mentioned in this blog my argument acknowledges the commitment of the following writers (in alphabetical order) as well as that of others whose trajectory I have not been able to follow adequately: Eno Agolli, Zisis Ainalis, Yiannis Antiochou, Dimitris Athinakis, Athanasia Danelatou, Dimitris Eleftherakis, Nikos Erinakis, Anna Griva, Patricia Kolaiti, Konstantina Korryvanti, Dimitra Kotoula, Yorgos Lamprakos, Dimitris Leontzakos, Alexios Mainas, Sergios Mitas, Zafiris Nikitas, Charilaos Nikolaidis, Konstantinos Papacharalampos, Iordanis Papadopoulos, George Prevedourakis, Haris Psarras, Yiannis Stigas, and Nikos Violaris.
March 1, 2016
“Now renegades are people with their own philosophy
They change the course of history
Everyday people like you and me
You know they have their secret notions
And time is endless motion
All people of the moderate ages here in this twentieth century
You have to keep up in time with the moderate time
A state of mind and a sense of pride
A renegade, yes a renegade
Of this time and age
So many renegades“