New York.- By Vicki J. Yiannias
Ten scholars from various universities share their views and research with the public in two unrelated events at Columbia University last week. On April 13, Vassilis Lmbropoulos delivered a lecture, Greek American Accents, and on April 14 there was an all-day conference In Memory of Manolis Anagnostakis (1925-2005): New York City, Days of 2006 A.D. The conference was organized by Vangelis Calotychos, Acting Director of the Program in Hellenic Studies and Kyriakos Tsakopoulos Assistant Professor of Hellenic Studies Department of Classics at Columbia University. Vassilis Lambropoulos also took part in the all day conference.
The beguiling Greek American Accents, on April 13, Kimon A. Doukas Memorial Lecture, tapped a topic of increasing interest among scholars, Greek cultural manifestations in the Greek American sphere, for example, Greek musical inflections and language idioms. Lambropoulos, who is C.P. Cavafy Professor of Modern Greek at the University of Michigan., discussed the term “syncretism” (and its original derivation, in Crete, ), the blending of disparate elements, inGreek American culture, with a rich catalogue of poets, singers/composers, comedians, immigration epics, and the birth of Gringlish, heard in the amusing CD, Café Aman, songs from 1920’s Chicago. revivied by Grigoris Maninakis Followed by Greek mezedes and wine, it was a great party.
The all-day conference on April 14, Manolis Anagnostakis (1925-2005): New York City, Days of 2006 A.D.included a screening of Lakis Papastathis’s film Manolis Anagnostakis (from Paraskinio, ERT), a 1983 interview with the poet in his apartment in the Pefki suburb of Athens (he was originally from Thessalonika). Anagnostakis remembers his childhood, discusses the German occupation of Greece, the civil war and other events, and historical periods that influenced his poetry.
Here is just a point or two from each talk.
After his collection Target (1969-70), Anagnostakis receded into silence, never to write poetry until his death in 2005. In Self-Anagnosis: The Poet As Ethos, Calotychos looked into a collection of Anagnostakis’s notes and works published in this “period AFTER poetry”, analyzing what to some has seemed the poet’s inexplicable withdrawal, the waywardness of those works, and how they commented on on the same issues of politics and poetry in his previous work.
The three pillars of Anagnostakis’s work are politics as public engagement and solidarity, reading as a process of discovery and foundation of writing, and their various interconnections in the context of Thessaloniki, said poet Yiorgos Chouliaras, Director of the Press and Communication Office of the Consulate General of Greece in Boston. “If, borrowing a page from the Greek War of Independence, we speak of ‘three parties’ in modern Greek poetry — an initially preponderant “French” — with Elytis and the surrealists, a “Russian” — with Varnalis and Ritsos, and an eventually dominant Anglo-American one — with Seferis, Anagnostakis as a “politically erotic” poet imploded these divisions and helped delineate alternative traditions for those following the “generation of the thirties.” The Issue is What You Say Now. Lives of the Poets: The Anagnostakis Case was the title of his talk.
Elsa Amanatidou, of Brown University,, in her talk, Anagnostakis and the Critics: Readings, Re-readings and Misreadings. addressed the political dimensions of Anagnostakis’s work through a survey of left-wing critics from the late 40’s to recent critical attempts to clothe the poet in strictly existential attire.
On a totally different tack, “in Sense Variously Drawn”:The Visual Poetics of Miltos Sachtouris and Manolis Anagnostakis, Karen Emmerich, Columbia University, talked about the visual poetics of Manolis Anagnostakis and Miltos Sachtouris, (who also died last year) and the way in which visual aspects of their texts — typography, layout, shaping and spacing, choices concerning capitalization and punctuation create meaning above and beyond the “sense” of the words on the page. The title of her talk was George Syrimis, from Yale, examined the musical renditions of the poetry of Anagnostakis by composer Mikis Theodorakis in the early to mid-1970s. in his talk Between Populism and Elitism: Theodorakis takes on Anagnostakis. Despite the self-confessed left-wing alignment of both Anagnostakis and Theodorakis, Symiris, said, in contrast to his other renditions of Anagnostakis’ poetry, “Theodorakis resorts to a melodic and orchestral idiom more consonant with the elitist proclamations of Manos Hadjidakis than with his own previous political music.”
In his lecture Silent Poets: What is poetry for…?, Marinos Pourgouris of Brown University dealt with the topic of Anagnostakis’s “silence” (he said “Silence is also an art”) during different periods, a frequent topic). He argued that Anagnostakis’s silence should be understood in the context of the wider “discourse of silence” that permeates Modernism, referring to Anagnostakis’s early influences from French Modernists, especially the surrealists.
In Manolis Anagnostakis and the Love of Writing,, Liana Theodoratou said that the lesson of the postwar generation of Greek poets,, is that poetry is always and never a poetry of defeat.
Responding to the violence and trauma of two wars—the Second World War and the Greek Civil War—and of at least two dictatorships, to the deaths and suffering that result from wartime conflict,. “Anagnostakis, along with others, seeks to offer a critical genealogy of the war, even as he stages and enacts his own troubled understanding of the capacities and incapacities of poetry in the face of disaster and catastrophe.”
Stathis Gourgouris, of UCLA, in Today — Communism & Poetry Without Compromises, cited Anagnostakis as belonging to the group of “communist poets” who “excel in 20th century literature as literary avant-gardists and politically anti-dogmatic mavericks.” Despite the overwhelming attention paid to Anagnostakis’s lapse into silence, argued Gourgouris, the “remnants of his voice, his poetry, stand as a textual record against the grain of all dogmatism and appropriation, including against his own self-image in later years as a nihilistic satirist.”
In Farewell to the Revolution, Vassilis Lambropoulos, referred to Anagnostakis, as the most representative literary figure whose work is dominated by the question of the revolution and examined the internal contradictions of revolution, as seen by others, such as Michel Foucault’s ideas about the 1978 Iranian revolution, another, Gerg Büchner’s, in his play Danton’s Death (1835), in which Robespierre says in which Robespierre says, “The social revolution is not yet finished, and to try to end a revolution in the middle is to dig your own grave. … Vice must be punished, virtue must rule through terror.”
Antonos Liakos, of the University of Athens, closed the conference with a two part lecture, the first consisting of personal accounts of Anagnostakis, whom he knew in Thessaloniki, describing his personality, his humor, and the poet’s routine strolls along the waterfront — with Liakos admiringly following behind to hear what he was saying. In the second part, Liakos discussed Anagnostakis in a historical perspective.