Is there a Greek “poetry of the crisis”?


There is no such poetry. It is both inaccurate and misleading to talk about the Greek “poetry of the crisis.” It makes it sound as if today verses are complementing the news, writers are speaking like pundits, the economy generates culture, and literature is reflecting reality. Should we then start looking for the most recent collection and the youngest talent the way we seek the latest news? Obviously not. The idea of a “poetry of the crisis” is grossly unfair to the splendid multilingual, multicultural, and multimedial writing now in circulation.

There is no “poetry of the crisis.” As the anthologies pictured above make it clear, since the mid-2000s there have been three major poetic trends in Greece.
a) Poetry on the crisis. It takes the economico-political crisis as its explicit topic, denounces its causes, and laments its effects. It represents an activist and interventionist writing, with society as its moral horizon, and Patti Smith its soundtrack.
b) Poetry in the crisis. Its topic is the debilitating impact of the crisis on the lives of individuals, families, and groups. It chronicles survival and integrity under conditions of austerity and precarity, with identity as its ethical horizon, and Tom Waits its soundtrack.
c) Poetry after the crisis. It is attuned to the Left Melancholy that has followed the double crisis of poetry and revolution in the 1990s. It re-imagines revolt under conditions of post-emancipatory disengagement, with the common as its political horizon, and The Gang of Four its soundtrack.

An undercurrent motif in all three poetic trends is the refusal of melancholy to mourn – in other words, we hear often about personal and collective bonds betrayed and battered yet not belittled and bemoaned. It sounds like close friends who used to be comrades are drinking some tea: their dream may have been derailed but its theater still stands, and one day they (like Pantelis Polychronidis, my “other self,” and me) may be back on the stage again.

April 15, 2016

“Tea & Theatre”

Will you have some tea
At the theatre with me?
We did it all
Didn’t we?

Jumped every wall
Unravelled codes

Wired all the roads
So seamlessly
We made it work
But one of us failed
That makes it so sad
A great dream derailed

One of us – gone
One of us – mad
One of us – me
All of us sad
All of us sad

Lean on my shoulder now
This story is done
It’s getting colder now
A thousand songs

Still smoulder now
We play them as one
We’re older now
All of us sad
All of us free
Before we walk from this stage
Two of us

Will you have some tea
Will you have some tea
At the theatre with me

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