In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Futures: Poetry of the Greek Crisis ed. by Theodoros Chiotis, and: Crisis: Greek Poets on the Crisis ed. by Dinos Siotis
  • Vassilis Lambropoulos (bio)
Theodoros Chiotis, editor, Futures: Poetry of the Greek Crisis. London: Penned in the Margins. 2015. Pp. ix + 218. Paper £8.79.
Dinos Siotis, editor, Crisis: Greek Poets on the Crisis. Middlesbrough: Smokestack Books. 2014. Pp. 99. Paper £9.95.

If you stopped following Greek poetry around 1980, now is a great time to catch up with it. Of all the arts, poetry has been identified as the most representative of the current national crisis. It constitutes the major cultural domain where the Greek emergency and/or exception are being negotiated. What makes things even more interesting is that a crisis of poetry preceded the “poetry of the Greek crisis” and ushered in the most exciting new generation of poets in half a century. [End Page 404]

The generations of the 1970s and 1980s were collective failures of form and force, but at least they produced a few excellent writers who continue to thrive, while that of the 1990s sank without trace, as poetry underwent a fundamental crisis of public meaning, even of civic confidence. For the first time in its modern history, it lost its faith both in its social mission and in the Revolution. This was due both to the eclipse of a major frame of reference with the collapse of the Left utopia together with the Berlin Wall and to the pervasive narrativization of public discourse, which turned all storytelling into testimony. Furthermore, all three poetic generations were overshadowed by the Greek postmodern novel of the postcolonial condition, which earned critical and popular recognition. Thus, the state of emergency for poetry came not after 2008 but after 1989, that is, after the exhaustion of political utopia and the rise of the traumatized self. In general, the crisis of Left culture preceded that of Left politics, and artistic dilemmas turned civic before moral ones turned political.

With the fin-de-siècle decline of literary and political grand narratives, however, a new collective project emerged early in this century, the poetry of Left Melancholy of the generation of the 2000s. Today, poetry seems to capture the general crisis so well because it went very creatively through its own immanent crisis and emerged with a skeptical mood of postrevolutionary disengagement known in political and literary theory as Left Melancholy. Several recent and forthcoming anthologies offer valuable opportunities to explore this major phenomenon. The two reviewed here open two different paths.

According to editor Dinos Siotis’s introduction to Crisis: Greek Poets on the Crisis, crisis is not a particular historical occurrence with its own unique character but a permanent Greek condition: it is diachronic (happening since “the capture of Helen,” [9]), Odyssean (“a journey into Greece” [10]), all-inclusive (social, economic, ecological, existential), and fundamentally poetic (since “every poet lives their whole life in a kind of crisis—real or imagined” [9]). Given the universality of crisis, the anthology has no particular viewpoint to suggest: 34 poets born between 1921 and 1983 are represented in alphabetical order, each with one poem, written in the span of 34 years, between 1979 and 2013. Based on the belief that poets are “in dispute with the cosmos” (9), it lets each poet’s single poem stand by itself, protesting human misery and denouncing all moral crisis. As a result, both introduction and structure encourage the impression that over the last three thousand years nothing has changed in Greek poetry.

Futures: Poetry of the Greek Crisis presents a quite different picture with a specific focus. Instead of arguing that poetry has been denouncing an ontic crisis transhistorically, it selects works that enact poetically the concrete crisis as they attempt, according to editor Theodoros Chiotis’s introduction, “to reclaim language from a semantic over-determination imposed by the increasingly abstract processes of finance” (ii). Futures is structured around major terms of “bankspeak” (ii) to expose the erosion of public discourse by the vocabulary of global capital. Each of its four sections tells a multidirectional story of austerity through the strategic arrangement of its poems. 40 poets born between 1963...