instead of shouting out

With only few exceptions which traditionally confirm the rule, the so much renowned Greek culture hasn’t offered as much these past decades, contrary to the grandiose perception commonly shared among the modern indigenous Greeks. Modern poetry, I am happy to say, is one of these exceptions, and can be probably the only thing that a Greek migrant should bring with in their hastily packed suitcase.

Celebrating the World Poetry Day I would just like to share my sheer passion for one of the most important -but paradoxically less known to the English speaking audience- Greek poets. Manolis Anagnostakis.

Manolis Anagnostakis (10 March 1925 – 23 June 2005) was a Greek poet and critic at the forefront of the Marxist and existentialist poetry movements arising during and after the Greek Civil War in the late 1940s. Anagnostakis was a leader amongst his contemporaries and influenced the generation of poets immediately after him. His poems have been honored in Greeceʹs national awards and arranged and sung by contemporary musicians. In spite of his accomplishments, Philip Ramp notes that Anagnostakis ʺis the least known, to an English speaking audience, of the major Greek poets of his generation.ʺ

Anagnostakis’ poetry is not pessimistic. Though its tone is sombre, though its verses often flirt with despair, in its innermost core there glows a light that looks more like the gleam of dawn rather than the dim glimmer of dusk. This light pervades his poetic work with an existential hue. Rather than being just an ideological poet, Anagnostakis is an existential poet, and this trait means that he strongly diverges from the category of political poets. As a result, he leans more towards the existential poets of his generation. (source)

Here are two of my most favourite of his poems. Even if they were written decades ago, Ι only have to succumb to their timelessness to feel modern before I utterly realise that a dead country is only that one who has forgotten of its poets.

The first telegrams began to arrive
The newspaper presses ground to a halt and waited
Orders were given to the proper authorities.
But the dead man would not die on the appointed hour.
All wore black ties
Rehearsed broken‐hearted postures before their mirrors
The first lamentations began to be heard. the grievous laudations.
But the dead man would not die on the appointed hour.
Finally the hours dragged into days
Those dreadful days of waiting
His friends began to protest
Closed their offices, stopped all payments
Their children wandered in the streets like outcasts.
They watched flowers withering.
But the dead man would not die on the appointed hour.
(So many many things never foreseen
So many incalculable consequences, so many sacrifices,
To what responsible person can you protest, where can you shout?)
And the dead man would not die on the appointed hour.


Are you for or against?
At least answer Yes or No.
Youʹve thought the problem over
Iʹm certain of course itʹs troubled you
All things in life trouble us
Children women insects
Noxious plants wasted hours
Difficult passions rotten teeth Mediocre films.
And this no doubt troubles you.
Well then, speak out like a responsible person.
At least with a Yes or a No.
The decision is up to you.
We donʹt ask you naturally to give up
Your activities to interrupt your life
Your favorite newspapers your discussions
At the barber shop your Sundays at the ball park.
One word only. Well then, go ahead:
Are you for or against?
Think it over carefully. I shall wait.

This post is titled by another of Anagnostakis’ poems.