Modern Greek Poetry


During the 18th and 19th century, centuries of financial, spiritual and political of the Greek (that is, all that lived out of the Ottoman Empire) a lot of great Greek-speaking spiritual centers (Ioannina, Constantinople, Chios, Smirni, Bucharest) at the limits of the Ottoman Empire, and the so-called linguistic matters exacerbated causing great ideological battles between the puritists, who introduced the resurgence of the ancient language, as a prerequisite to the resurrection of the
and the users of demotic, who judged that the
will be revived only if the spoken language becomes the written language. Under this period appeared the first works, ancient dialects and the common verse – imitations of poetical styles stemming mainly from the French literature.

B11. – On the ideological field, where the literary conflicts take place, the linguistic stereotypes are no longer perceived as different as to the philosophical holistic survey of the world and faith. The linguistic polarity no longer differentiates between Idolaters and Christians, but during the duration of the 19th century, there is a separation of Greek scholars into and
, on one side and into
and on the other. At the turn of the century (1890 – 1900 and onward) with the diffusion of Socialist and Marxist ideas, the establishment of
and societies and Socialistic political parties of those who wrote in puristic form were considered as , , and those who wrote in and likely in in pure (language invented)

B12. – In 1828, after the Greek war of Independence against the Ottoman rule that held 7 years, the Greeks founded the New Hellenic state which formerly extended gradually towards the Ottoman state and previously in the past shrinking, or renouncing the present boundaries that decided what would be the language of administration and the education that would console the civil service.

B13. – The demand was by the enforcement of a language that which the administration and education of the officialese , a language that held to an intense level the ancient characteristics, and from the dictionary of the commons many words won from the ancient, inspired with Greek-spoken neologisms declarative terms of science, of administration rt and of technology. The supremacy of the pure Greek as official language of the state and language of the held from 1833 until 1979, thus as language of the state, the newspapers, the , and the ignorant, surfaced de jure or , which de facto had already been dominated from the beginning of the 19th century.

B14. – The creation and the strengthening of the Greek state, the elementary institutional schools and second degree scools, the publishing of newspapers and magazines, and mainly the foundation of the University of Athens, the spiritual forces of the Greek-speakers were concentrated in Greece, moving from the Ottomans the Western-European ways originated the so-called
, that is, letters and sciences and, as was natural information about the new poetical trends.

B15 – Henceforth defining, the Greek-speaking poetry, progressively and with 2 to 10 years distance, from the ways of the French, the Italian (alike the poetry of the Ionian islands that are located across Italy, were not captured by the Turks and remained successively from Venetian, French and English occupation until 1864 that is embodied in the Greek dominion) and lately (from 1930 until today) from the ways of English-American poetry.

B16 – Especially the first 60 years, roughly, of the 19th century, Romanticism dominated, and the state, with the exception of words of the Ionian islands, that keep from the Creto-Venetian tradition, they follow the Italian poetical things and are written under the rules of the (folk, popular). From the Ionian islands were the founders of the Neo – Hellenic poetry were born , the count Dionysios Solomos, and the petit bourgeois Andreas Kalvos, who are both of first poetical class, eventhough they are completely different artists in their idiosyncratic art form. D. Solomos studied in Italy, defined from the German idealistic philosophy and fought relentlessly the puritans. His poetry as part of its vision and rhetoric is placed between romanticism, as towards the musical quality and the perfection of his verse results as a prelude to Symbolism. At the same period, A. Kalvos wrote exquisite poems of a quality higher and measures unparalleled by our present poetry. I mean that he was linguistically variant and from a purist form and from a popular Orthodoxy bringing together words of ancient value with common ones, also in a way unprecedented by our present poetry.

B17 – From the last quarter of the 19th century until approximately 1930, Parnassismos (approx. 1880 – 1900) initially dominated Symbolism. The exepeption is Kavafis human attitude and sensual feelings of the historical situation of the people, and the aesthetic eroticism, expressed in a direct language, mixed (words and ways of the common folk together with those of purists also interweaved with the idioms of the colonized – Egyptian-Hellenic) counter-poetry for his time, it covers the symbolic extent of his poetry, creating a realistic feeling rendering historical events and erotical circumstances. Kariotakis was also an exception whose poetics shivers the traditional harmony of the verse and linguistically declinates from the common orthodoxy that Palamas had imposed, daring to use words and ways of the pure language, and ideologically attacking it with crude accusations and sarcastic hints, under the mass of deceiving Neo-Hellenic valuation, undermining the stereotypes of Symbolism.

B18 – From 1930 to 1940, the general inclination was order of the past 1920’s, converging and stabilizing in the worded poetry which basically constituted of Seferi’s Modernism (that was transferred in Greek, French and English in expressionistic ways and ends up with the archetype of the so-called generation of the 30’s). He was followed by the genial Surrealist Eliti and the intense Empirco.

B19 – From then until today, we have the period of the ‘succesors’ (the first so-called post-war generation, the generation of defeatists, 1945 – 1955), the period of
(the second, so-called, post-war generation, the generation of lost poets, 1956 – 1965), the period of the (the third post-war generation, generation of the 70’s, or, generation of dispute, 1966 – 1975) and the generation of the (the forth post-war generation, generation of the 80’s, or, generation of the privatl vision, or simply, generation of Neo-romanticism, 1976 – 2000).

B20– Besides their differences, the post-war poets which remain on the heaviest level of these poets are those of the generation of the 30’s, whom repeat, variations of the poetical ways, wandering like satellites (of course at different elliptical paths) others around Seferi, others around Eliti, others around Empirico and still others around Ritso, who by age belong to the generation of the 30’s but do not share the same ideology.

B21 – The poetical ways of the post-war poets express mainly the different aspects of Modernism, with a slight inclination towards the naïve interpretation of Socialistic Realism in some early works of those committed to Marxist – Socialist ideals, poets of the period between 1945 – 1955, who wrote with a more intense and more permanent stance towards Surrealism a significant number of poets during the fourth period (1945 – 2000).

B22. – The rhyme, that came to Greece with the crusaders (11th – 13th century), consolidated with the Frankish occupation and dominated until about 1940, has all but disappeared. The rhetorical tones have fallen (with exception of the , not expressively, the rhetoric of the Surrealists, and the rhetoric of the civil war poets, who took side in the resistance during German occupation and the civil war that followed and were defeated and the tonic development of poems progressed under certain the communist party order. Claimed exception results or coincidence of the very talented poet Tasos Livaditi, poet of the < generation of defeatists>, who from the Socialrealistic rhetoric of his youth, ended up in delirium rhetoric of maturity, converting to the blowing of the horn of the social reformer to the lauthers and cries of a completely ruined man. Sui Generis is, such is the case of the genius Nikos Karouzos,a poet with strong talent, acute feeling of the language, great iconoplastic force, metaphysical conseption of the real, denouncement of common delicacy and peculiar profound lyricism, that if left boosted he has from achieved a devout and higher spirituality, even when he plays or swears.

B23. – The textual and semantic structure of poems mixed, from the simple coherence to the full disorganization, the iconoplastic is mixed in relation with them and the language, demotic by rule (though with strong projections of the pure languedge (Kathareuousa) in the poetry of the Surrealists) vascillating from the simple everyday idiom to the overdemanded, cryptical, sectional language detached from the so called ‘glosokenrtiki’ those – who focus on the language.

B24. – Finally, with the exception of the generation of 1880, that disowned Romanticism, and the generation of 1930, that recommended Modernism, if something differs between of the NeoHellenic poets it is not the aesthetic trends and realization, but the language and the social ideology.

B25. – Close to 100 years, the conduct of the ideological juxtaposition is found in the linguistic field and the poets are seen in two fighting teams: the puritans and the demoticistes.

B26. – With the predominance of the popular idiom in literature, the dominance is obliged to the giant, linguistic, work of the leading poet and critic of the generation of 1880 who regulated for 50 years our poetical effects, Costi Palama, ideological polarization moved from the language of the social-politic field: the Socialists and the Marxists, self-assigned as
, accuse the Non-Marxist bourgois and small-bourgois, who are named as . The battle was won by the and soldierly order beat them in the civil war, 1944 – 1949), and politically, their class, still governs in some way, and aesthetically, (according to the boursoi poetical ways wrote and the Marxists) although in their disposition, the so-called generation of defeatisists, had many good and unique true defining poets (Varnali, who did not actually belong to their generation,although he was the first who mentioned from the Marxist view, social problems, the very good, who did not belong to these genaration, Ritso, who narrates with exemptible poetry Greece of the last 70 years, Anagnostaki, Alexandrou, and many others).

B27. – By the end of the decade of 1950, the wounds of the war, (1940 – 1941), of the German-Iatalian occupation, (1941 – 1944) and the civil war (1946 – 1949, slowly, slowly started to heal. A high percentage of young men and women left their ravaged countries and poor neighborhoods of the urban centers and emigrate in Germany, Australia, Canada, U.S.A, and any other country in which they could easily find work. Like so undoing their problems of unemployment the Greek governments of that time stood for order and strict rhythms of economical development. The poor, little wanting and spare and frugal. Greece altered into a growing, developed country, uncovering new needs and acquires new habits. The generations that came to the world of the twenties 1945 – 1965, passed their childhood years and lived their adolescence in an entirely different environment to the one before the war. They knew neither of war, famine, and unlike all who lack bodily suffering and living concerns, ] found out the poets of this generation, the delight of mental illness and the luxury of anxiety.

B28. – Here, really, the last two post-war generations differ,
and the : completely oblivious to everything, except their poetry (which all the more frequently, the more narcissistic, is self-explanatory), and their publicity, that seeks virulently, with everything in it and without any remorse .

B29. – Especially, the so-called is the first generation of poets who deny consciously to serve ideas. The Orthodoxy in language, the patriotic feelings, the social justice, and the Greek character, (the reflective agony assimilated to the foreign ways and the spiritual upgrating to all [currents] of the 3000’s literature and biotic tradition, runs through us underground of Greek/Romeikes awareness, as much as to save our ethnic characteristics without loosing our European orientation) successive, sequential requests – experimentation of consciousness and the art of the pre-war generations, not only left aside, indifferent, the poets of the but also intrigued, often, their irony and mockery.

B30. – ‘As far as the so-called is concerned, with the exception of the sonnet, as a form of of the old free writing, it persists to offer to our letters its own understanding of lyricism, as an expression of
and its own perception about , as romanticism chambers.

B31. – The style of denial of the (as many as remain in the almost sexagenarian representatives) and the style of obstinence of the (who from the perspective of occupation and consumption of material things and service is more priviledge) remain interspersed in numerous magazines which nobody and nothing really represents. It did not lead to a shallow feeling with the aesthetics of the generations before, not even with their conformism (bourgeois of the generation of the 30’s, partly the generation of defeatists, from which are observed differences) of which, the reverse, adopted and with the necessary for their publishity cynicism is not sufficient as constituent of creational poetical generations.

B32. – The classification, categorization of the previous poetical generations, is fictious and arbitrary, since they did not manage to coordinate their voises, to concentrate cohesive poesy and ideology. A more general team to diversify effectively from the poets of the generation of the 30’s (who succeeded) and to result definitive in the poetical evolution.

B33. – The fictious, though, of their classification generations, does not discredit the quality and the authenticity of their poetry. They might not have shown leding personalities until the present day at least, into the leading forms and great sizes. They offered, however, twenty worthy, minor, poets and many other good poems and their poetry, more generally, by no means was not inferior to the currently written poetry and at the two coasts of the Atlantic, possibly even exceeding even that far.

Kostas Sofianos

Born 1945 in Athens.
Following secondary education in Merchant Navy School he graduated from the University of Athens Law School.
Lives in Athens where he practices Law since 1975. Has worked as a seaman (1963) proof – reader (1970 sgg) state radio producer (1983) editor of the law terms of the Papyros – Larousse – Britannica encyclopedia (1996 –1994) and college lecture on Law (1988 – 1993). First published in 1970 with a poetry collection.
In 1962 – 1972 assistant to the publication by Renos Apostolides (Nea Hellinika and Anthology) and editor of the Newspaper of Greek Jurists (1990 – 1994). Member of the publishing group of the literary review To Dentro (The Tree, 1978) along with K. Mavroudis, Y. Patilis and M. Ganas; along with Y. Patilis Ch Vrontos and Y.Zouganelis published the magazine Nissos -Mousiki kePoiisi (Island-Music and Poetry, 1982 –1985) and Kritiki ke Kimena ( Critique and Texts, 1984 – 1985). Since 1996 edits, along with Spyros Georgantas and Spyros Mandros, the web magazine Metatheseis (

Translated into Bulgarian, French, Italian and Russian.
1970 Parergon (Side Lines Job)
1974 Simatoros (Singller)
1981 Apolafseis (Pleasures)
1994 To fantasma tou hepovolea (The Ghost of the Promper)
Contributed articles to the magazines he co-published as well as to the Literary reviews Pneumatiki Cyprus, To Dentro, I Lexi, Planodion and others. He also contributed the articles on Critique and Poetry of the Ekdotiki Athinon encyclopedia.




Kostis Palamas

Palamas (1859-1943) is one of the best known and loved Greek poets of the 20th century. Born in Patras, he received his primary and secondary educations in Mesologhi. In the early 1880s, he worked as a journalist and literary critic. He published his first collection of verses, “The Songs of My Fatherland,” in 1886. After the publication of his second collection of poems, “Iambs and Anapaests” in 1897, he was named secretary general of the University of Athens, a position he held until 1926, his year of retirement. He died during the German occupation of Greece in 1943.

Heartaches of the Lagoon

My early unforgettable years I lived them
Close to the sea,
There by the shallow and calm sea,
There by the open and boundless sea.
And every time that my budding, early life
Comes back to me,
And I see the dreams and hear the voices
Of my early life there by the sea,
You, oh my heart, feel the same old yearning:
If I could live again,
Close to the shallow and calm sea,
There by the open and boundless sea.
Was it really my destiny, was it my fortune,
I haven’t met another
A sea within me as shallow as a lake,
And like an ocean boundless and big.
And, lo! In my sleep a dream brought her
Close again to me,
The same there shallow and calm sea,
The same there boundless and open sea.
 Yet, thrice be alas! A grief was poisoning me,
A powerful grief,
A grief that you did not lighten, my dream
Of my great early love, my home by the sea.
What storm, I wonder, was raging in me,
And what whirlwind,
That couldn’t put it to rest, or lull it to sleep
My wonderful dream of my home by the sea.
A grief that is unspoken, an unexplained grief,
A powerful grief,
A grief not quenched even within the paradise
Of our early life close to the boundless sea.


HALASMATA (RUINS) from Still Life

 I returned to my golden playgrounds,
I returned to my white boyhood trail,
I returned to see the wondrous palace,
Built just for me by love’s divine ways.
Blackberry bushes now cover the boyhood trail,
And the midday suns have burned the playgrounds,
And a tremor has destroyed my palace so rare,
 And in the midst of fallen walls and burned Timbers,
I remain lifeless; lizards and snakes
With me now live the sorrows and the hates;
And of my palace a broken mass now remains.


On the trip you are taken
By the horseman of the night
Anything that he offers you
You must refuse outright.
And if you thirst, don’t drink
From the world below
The forgetfulness cursed drink,
Poor uprooted mistletoe!
Do not drink and totally
And eternally forget us!
Leave behind your marks
To find the way to get t’us.
And small as you still are,
And as a swallow light,
And a hero’s noisy arms
Don’t hang on your side,
 Do your best to fool
The sultan of the night,
Slide quietly, in stealth,
And fly to the upper light,
And in our broken home
Return, oh darling mine,
And become a gentle wind
Sweet kissing us one more time.

By Kostis Palamas
Translated by Alex Moskios




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