In Their Own Words: Greek Austerity Revolutionizing Poetry



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Not since the outspoken writers during the junta in the late 1960’s — 1970’s has there been a literary display of self-expression in Greece as there is today. Nowadays, it is not limited to merely books and publications as poetry is finding its way into bars, cafes, music, art and graffiti walls. Whenever the opportunity presents, these impassioned poets are leaving their mark on the age of the austerity.

In efforts to express a new generation’s struggles and desires and to change the global perception that has become a rather stagnant picture of Greece, a new anthology in English translation, Austerity Measures, complies works of revolutionary poems. Ironically, not all of the poets who have contributed their writings are Greek. The editor, Karen Van Dyck points out that although the title points to a social and economic theme, that the increase in poets writing similar topics is not a coherent process. “A lot of these poets don’t even know the others exist. It’s a very dispersed scene. Nor are they really a generation. They are multicultural, multiethnic, multigenerational. They don’t even think they need to belong to Greek poetry. They have access to the whole world,” says Van Dyck.

Some Featured Poets and Their Inspirations

There are many poets who contributed to Austerity Measures. The compilation found its inspiration at the heart of urban pop culture and post-capitalism, and incorporates images of older technologies with new, and a splash of ancient myths to create its uniqueness.

greek poetsEftychia Panayiotou is 37 years old and from Athens. She originally published many of her poems featured in this collection around nine years ago as a means to “expose the suspicion that what we call ‘personal identity’ is socially constructed. In these short poems the subject realizes that pain and grief is part of the process of wanting to be free.” Motivated by fear of a predetermined future, Panayiotou says she finds hope in what matters most: “love, friendship, knowledge and art.”

Also from Athens is poet Jazra Khaleed, 37 years old. He believes that poetry has a role to play in political discourse and finds motivation in this belief. “There are autonomous anti-fascist groups and working class groups who publish magazines, do demonstrations, put posters on the walls. Poetry can be a part of this discourse.”

greek poet 2“My words are homeless
They sleep on the benches of Klafthmonos Square
covered in IKEA cartons
My words do not speak on the news
They’re out hustling every night
My words are proletarian, slaves like me
They work in sweatshops night and day”

– An extract from Words by Jazra Khaleed

greek poet 4Poet Elena Penga is 50 years old and lives Athens. She uses fragments of her personal memories to challenge perceptions of our goals as human beings. Through her poetry, Penga hopes to convey a message of self-awareness. She wants to inspire readers to consider the role of the body, mind and senses in this time of crisis, stating, “Do people trust their body? Do they listen to it? How can they stop being just consumers, but active members of society who care about their environment? How do our senses and our body want us to live, work, relate, create?”

greek poets 3Also entries from poets outside of Greece found their way to Austerity Measures. The 35-year-old poet, Yiannis Doukas, is from Galway, Ireland, and finds hope in “the wheels of history,” and the belief that eventually, everything gets better. His work focuses on “attempting to encapsulate how my generation experiences reality and develops emotion in the digital age.” Inspired by literature and the urban landscape, he holds to the belief that plowing through disappointments and hard times is all worth it when one is trying to make the world a better place and fighting for a more fair society.