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Greek poets protest on World Poetry Day 21 March 2012

International media report on

ATHENS poetRY protest on World Poetry Day, March 21, 2012



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More on the Greek protests marking World Poetry Day. Helena Smith says:

In a nation that takes its poetry seriously (Greece has produced two Nobel prize-winning poets) hundreds turned out to defend the cultural values that many said were fast being eroded by the financial crisis.

With poems as their rallying cries and verses as their slogans, artists, publishers, writers and booksellers gathered in brilliant sunshine outside the Greek parliament "to bring forth a world concealed by statistics." Protests against cuts in the arts that had "destroyed peoples' self-confidence" were also heard.

"It's not only an economic, political and social crisis but an ethical crisis too," said prominent poet Yiorgos Chouliaras. "Creative people know no boundaries and this is a call to show we can creatively respond to the crisis. Without poetry we cannot get through the crisis and without creativity we cannot go beyond the crisis. It's fundamental that cultural values are defended."

The debt-stricken country had, he said, received "amazingsupport" from poets world-wide who, for the first time ever, had approved of World Poetry Day being turned into a day of resistance as well as celebration.

Perhaps not coincidentally World Poetry Day was proclaimed by UNESCO in 1999 in the wake of a campaign by verse-loving Greeks.



Rhyming rally: Greek poets protest austerity

By Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, Greece

It isn't often demonstrators quote from the works of Nobel laureates. But in Athens on Wednesday, Greek poets joined anti-austerity protests holding outdoor recitals at cultural sites in the city as they made their way to parliament.

Several hundred people attended the rally, along with dancers on stilts and a Latin music percussion band, to mark World Poetry Day. Teenagers handed out their own poems to the public — as irritated drivers stuck in midday traffic looked on in amazement and striking hospital doctors in medical uniforms passed by in a separate protest.

The poets' march was in contrast to daily demonstrations held in Athens since the country was plunged into serious financial crisis two years ago, with protests that sometimes turn violent by flag-waving union members shouting familiar slogans.

On Wednesday, placardsbore the faces and words of Greece's literary heroes, Nobel Prize winners George Seferis and Odysseas Elytis, and the renowned poet Constantine P. Cavafy.

"For me, this is the epitome of a protest, people making their point in a civilized way," said Manolis Polentas, a poet and radio show host. "It's because the crisis affects everybody — poets included," he said. "Poets are usually inspired by personal misery. But that's why they fight for a fair and more colorful world."

Greeks have seen their living standards plummet during repeated austerity measures demanded by rescue creditors that have slashed benefits, pensions and the minimum wage, and left one in five people unemployed.

Organizers of Wednesday's protest said their goal is encourage Greeks to maintain their optimism as the country suffers through a fifth year of recession.

"We thought there was a need for something different. ... This is a protest where the slogans are the words of our poets and in support of the values of culture," Yiorgos Chouliaras, a poet and the main event organizer said.

The protest is "aimed at spurring creativity, stimulation, and humor, self motivation and imagination — to act in a different way so that we Greeks have a different self-image, and people abroad have a different image of us," he said.

© The Associated Press





In Greece, shall I compare thee to an austerity measure?

This is a Greek protest. And it may not look like the protests you’re used to seeing. Past protests against austerity in Greece have grabbed headlines with hooded youths hurling Molotov cocktails and stones, angry over the harsh measures the country has taken to please its creditors.

Instead of throwing stones, these protesters read poems. Every day on World Now, we choose a striking image from around the globe. Today we were drawn to this photo of a poetry protest in Athens, where people danced on stilts and shared rhymes for an unconventional demonstration on World Poetry Day.

Poets toted placards with the faces and words of Greek literary heroes, Nobel Prize laureates and the renowned poet Constantine P. Cavafy, the Associated Press reported.

Discontent over austerity measures has simmered in Greece, which has “committed itself to years of brutal public spending cuts that will slash wages and pensions and push tens of thousands of people out of work,” The Times’ Henry Chu wrote last month:

Many Greek citizens and analysts believe the country is being condemned to a slow and excruciating death as the economy keeps shrinking and the mountain of debt becomes correspondingly larger. Greece is being subjected to shock therapy, they say, only without the therapy.

Though agitated protests are still happening daily, “we thought there was a need for something different…. This is a protest where the slogans are the words of our poets and in support of the values of culture,” poet and event organizer Yiorgos Chouliaras told the Associated Press.



TV5MONDELittérature[AFP]ATHENES, 21 mars 2012 (AFP)


Des poètes dans les rues d'Athènes pour "inventer le printemps" grec

Athènes a troqué mercredi jargon monétaire et sabir bancaire le temps d'une manifestation poétique en vers, qui a rassemblé des centaines "d'enfants d'Homère".

"Si le printemps n'arrive pas, invente-le": Alexandre a 17 ans et le slogan qu'il brandit n'est pas tiré du dernier tube à la mode mais de l'oeuvre d'un des plus grands poètes grecs contemporains, Odysseas Elytis, prix Nobel de littérature en 1979.

"Ca fait 2000 ans que les Grecs écrivent de la poésie dans la même langue, aucun autre pays ne peut en dire autant. Et avec les mots de la poésie, on peut dire qu'on s'oppose à toutes les mesures qu'on nous impose", affirme gravement le lycéen capable de réciter des vers à la demande.

Comme des centaines d'autres Athéniens, il a rallié la librairie Ianos, au centre de la capitale grecque pour participer "non pas à une manifestation de plus, mais à une manifestation différente", revendique Yiorgos Chouliaras, l'un des initiateurs du projet auquel se sont associés plusieurs magazines, cercles et éditeurs de poésie.

Ce 21 mars, jour du printemps et journée mondiale de la poésie, est l'occasion de "montrer une autre image du pays à l'étranger et de rappeler aux Grecs eux-mêmes que la force de la culture, de la création peut nous aider à sortir de la situation où nous sommes", affirme M. Chouliaras, lui-même auteur de plusieurs recueils.

"Nous sommes tous des enfants d'Homère, la poésie a fait la gloire de la Grèce depuis l'antiquité jusqu'à aujourd'hui": le poète et journaliste Anastassis Vistonitis ne se lasse pas de rappeler la place occupée par l'art de la rime dans un pays qui chante ses poètes et les enrôle dans ses combats politiques.

Les vers de Yannis Ritsos, Odysseas Elytis, Georges Séféris (prix Nobel de littérature en 1963), mis en musique par le compositeur Mikis Théodorakis, ont accompagné toute une génération dans son combat contre la dictature des colonels (1967-1974).

"Après la dictature, l'appat d'une richesse facile a fait perdre au peuple sa spiritualité. Nous avons sombré dans le divertissement facile, aujourd'hui c'est le printemps d'une nouvelle solidarité, de nouvelles actions collectives", veut croire Anna Konstantinidou, une avocate devenue thérapeute, qui a choisi comme slogan un vers de Manolis Anagnostakis (1925-2005): "j'ai peur des hommes qui, se sentant coupables, cherchent à trouver des fautes chez les autres".

Au départ de la manifestation, qui a marché au son des percussions jusqu'à la place Syntagma, au pied du parlement, chacun a pioché dans un éventail de pancartes déclinant des rimes grecques en rapport avec la situation politique et économique du pays.

"Kane alma pio grigoro apo tin phthora" --"Va plus vite que la décadence"--, brandit Dimitris Tagalanis, architecte et peintre venu manifester pour "sauver son âme". "Otan akous taksi, anthropino kreas mirizei --"quand tu entends le mot +ordre+, ça sent la viande humaine"--, proclame le panneau de Georgos Manginis, un archéologue de 40 ans, selon lequel "la poésie a toujours su redonner à la Grèce sa fierté dans les moments difficiles".

Plusieurs manifestants ont préféré retenir de célèbres vers de Séféris "partout où je voyage, la Grèce me fait mal".

© 2012 AFP


More international as well as Greek media reports on the Athens Poetry Protest blog:




If you cannot find spring,

make it.

Odysseas Elytis

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