Thomas Tsalapatis/ Crisis in poetry and poetry in the crisis

 

Thomas Tsalapatis was born in 1984 in Athens. He studied at the Department of
Theatrical Studies of the Philosophical Faculty of the Kapodistrian University of
Athens. In 2011 he published his first poetic collection, “Dawn is slaughter, Mr. Krak”
(Ekati), and was awarded the State Prize for newly emerging writer of the year
(2012). In 2015 he published his second collection, “Alba” (Ekati). In 2017, Alba was
released in French by Editions Desmos translated by Nicole chaperon. In 2018 he
won the first prize for his poetic section "Incidents" (Circostanze) by Premio InediTO- Colline di Torino at Turin International Book Fair. That same Year "Dawn is slaughter Mr. Krak" was published in Italy by Editore XY.IT translated by Viviana Sebastio. In 2016 he wrote “Encore”, a play which was staged at the Attis Theater in Athens, directed by Theodoros Terzopoulos. The text and the poems of the performance
were published in 2017 by Mov Skiouros editions under the name “Pnigmos”. In
2018 his third poetry collection “Geographies of the Fritzs and the Langs was
published.
In 2018 his play “Monica Vitti remembers no more” was staged in Maison de la
Poésie in Paris, directed by Laurence Campet and translated by Clio Mavroeidakos.
The play opened in Athens in February 2019, directed by Nicole Dimitrakopoulou and
was published by Mov Skiouros.
Several of his poems have been translated into English, French, Spanish, Italian,
Arabic. He is currently a columnist for the Saturday edition of “Efimerida ton
Syntacton” and for the Sunday edition of “Epohi” as well as for a number of other publications and web magazines. His writings can be found at Groucho Marxism:
http://tsalapatis.blogspot.com

The multifaceted crisis of 2008 in Greece was an event that reached existential
proportions. An event that changed people’s perspective and perception, trends and
approaches, the way we deal with any number of issues. It stands to reason that
every incident within this space and time will be identified with it and be viewed
through its lens. The new generation of Greek poets could not be exempt. Poets of
various styles were grouped, interpretations were given, and conclusions were
drawn that provoked reactions. The voices of the young Greek poets crossed beyond
the borders by means of translations and anthologies. The created brand functioned
more as a comment in regard to the crisis rather than a comment on poetry itself.
But what remains is the awareness of a fact that cannot be ignored. The younger
generation of Greek poets is one of the most fascinating creative trends of the past
few decades and its product deserves to stand on the frontlines of world poetic
creation.
For this younger generation of poets, two obstacles converge. The exclusion of age
(youth unemployment, lack of perspective, mass immigration abroad) and the crisis
of poetry (poetry as a dead species that no one reads, but which persistently adorns
political speeches, subway trains and commemorational calendars). Both of which
are the symptoms of a society, and an answer to these symptoms. This meeting of
the two becomes a dialogue between them and language is thus defined as a field of
conflict.
In the poetry of this generation, the world is experienced as boredom and as a
threat. The quotidian in its routine becomes a nightmare, and the outside is often
described in an almost expressionistic way. This generation is heir to an annulled
future tense and an excluded age. The cruel and univocal nature of this reality is
often identified with those who created it, the past generations. Towards them,
poetry often turns hostile. The creators of the impasse coincide with the successors

who have been called upon to manage it, detached from time and treated as a
generic "You", a common stance opposing the poem. Against this "you", poetry at
times responds with irony, other times by bringing innocence to the forefront,
sometimes by urging an attack. There is no lacking in clear political themes, with
references to issues such as immigration, rebellion, or bureaucracy. More and more
poetry counters this world with its very essence, the sincerity of its existence.

With regards to form, this new generation of poets, set out to explore anew, with
distinct characteristics. A variation of form from one collection to the next, often
even from one poem to the next, avoiding the widespread modernist or post-
modernist acrobatics and games whilst oftentimes ending up opting for the safe
simplicity of narrative substance. Thus, we often come across entirely
heterogeneous elements, a short and plain text at times and other times one that
strongly resembles the theatrical dialogue. Sometimes the language is ironic and
accusatory in its directness and verbality, and sometimes an introverted
construction, influenced by the almost forgotten aspects of the Greek language such
as ecclesiastical texts. There is such a multitude of influences that it covers a
spectrum of disparate sources even in the choices of the same poet. One element
that seems, to a great extent, to unite this mosaic of choices, is often enough a
political claim, a disposition to act politically though through the process of a poem.
The politics of this particular poetry arise from its very own materials, an increasingly
present poetic "We", which stands against a world that excludes both this particular generation as well as poetry itself. This plural, which sometimes refers to a person and other times to a generation or to those who side with the poem, can be found in texts with different goals, different temperatures and different origins. This poetic
“we”, compact and yet at the same time abstract, constitutes a return to the political
discourse in terms entirely different to those of the past, devoid of dogma and
certainties. It is a "we" that relates to a request for something new, a voice that does not address the answers but the questions from a position of authority, which does not speak of its singular self but rather about that which surpasses it.

At the same time, the element that, in my opinion, bears the greatest interest in this
poetic movement is the emergence and dominance of the poetic book as a concept,
a single poetic gesture as opposed to a collection of poems. The creation of a book
where each poem, even if it can stand alone, speaks to the creation of a
comprehensive proposal. Books that are structured following a specific concept, a
certain literary convention can register and function in a compact manner, defining
with greater accuracy their poetic characteristics. Books with a certain (even if it is
oftentimes abstract) architectural structure, with thematic, linguistic or stylistic axes,
books with a conceptual center prevail in the poetic production in recent years and
more so in the books of the youngest generation of poets. This common feature in a
series of poetic books, which entail many individual differences, describes a
tendency that if it were to be continued with the same intensity will become the
norm.
The poetic book-concept can stand its ground against the overall literary production
since its central theme; its literary structure and its overall proposal are clearly
defined. Within this condition the creator can more accurately handle features such
as the intertextuality of the book, the way it converses with other art forms, the
distinctive characteristics of the language used. Where the poet was once limited to
the use of poetic snapshots he now stands in front of a single canvas. The myth, the
creation of worlds, the narrative all form pieces that can appear in a more
harmonious way within this canvas than in a collection of poems. Even if it is of a
fragmentary nature such a book has continuity, even if it is short it reaches the
extent of a novel, even if it has a single voice this book is polyphonic.
At the same time the poetic book-concept can provide the playground where a game
with poetic forms of the past can flourish. If we were to accept that the
experimentation with the various poetic forms reached its limits at some point in the
post-war era, then we could say that whatever new will emerge through a game, a
combination and a synthesis of existing forms within a certain field. The poetic book-
concept offers precisely that.

Of course, such books existed in almost all previous generations; however they never
became the predominant form. Nowadays, poetry exists mainly as a question since
all certainties have collapsed, the poetic authority has been limited and poetic
tendencies on a global scale seem fluid. The poetic book-concept, besides being a
poetic and creative tool, functions through its clarity and defined outline as an
extroverted move. As the creation of a specific object in the form of a poetic
proposal. A proposal that can be recorded and communicated.