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Nikos Karouzos

A Selection of Poems

I always climb towards horror with greasy boots, starving now from flame fluently secular fluently in tears eternal chorographer of my diction and unquestioned garment. Badly spent illumination in mauve and other delays, of an ignoble horizon barking the creed of the dog, or an unbecoming hallucinatory Universe, pharaonic queen through mathematical piousness. I am whats involuntary of existence my physique is not a flower, it is rawness, I am disposed toward a thousand years even if I fall eternally on bloody seconds; the winds have pointed me out. May 1989

Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou From: Collected Poems

Translation: Philip Ramp


Two seas pursue me: life and death two currents which, damn them, are in my heart . . . I am trying to find in my dogdrunk head /second possessive pronoun/ intelligence cant be found. I didnt petrify anything. Lets play the winds lets sweetly play the damned. What a sensuously-seasoned infant the poem and poor Jesus wearing orange stained underwear is hung up every year in spring. Our art: the egos most horrible disguise.

Translation: Philip Ramp


Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou From: Collected Poems

Joy of night, oh sonorous lights, marvelous evening the colored noise of the city divided up my loneliness, sometimes yellow, orange, blue, and now red dyeing my gait pure green. Love had white marks. Stop. Rewind. The turmoil bore the white marks of the world. The clouds invisible. No. The angel radiates like marble in the deserts of the moon, in the honeysuckle white death is duped and the night is amused with shooting stars. No, no. Time approaches visions on tiptoe. Greed! I should have further submerged the grief within my soul. No. The cricket ornaments expanses. The night comes down the stairway of darkness sits on the passion of Mary. All alone the busts breathe in the gardens. Stop. Everything is erased. I want to escape from words. Im sick of it. Better it would be to listen to what on the next balcony two perennial old ladies are saying; sitting there by the hour.

Translation: Philip Ramp

ROMANTIC EPILOGUE Dont read me if you havent attended the funerals of strangers or at least memorial services. If you havent divined the strength that makes love the rival of death. If you havent flown a kite on Clean Monday without monkeying with it. pulling on the string continually. If you dont know if Nostradamus ever sniffed flowers. If you havent been at least once to the Deposition from the Cross. If you dont know any past perfect. If you dont love animals and, especially, squirrels. If you dont hear thunder with pleasure, wherever you are. If you dont know that the handsome Modigliani drunk at three in the morning, pounded furiously on a friends door looking for Villons poems and began to read for hours out loud disturbing the Universe. If you call nature our mother and not our aunt. If you dont joyously drink the innocent water. If you dont understand the Flowering Era is the one youre living in. BEWARE WET PAINT. Dont read me if you are right. Dont read me if you havent quarrelled with the body . . . Time I was going, I have no more breath. Translation: Philip Ramp

Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou From: Collected Poems


Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou From: Collected Poems

Electra you are now daughter of a king amid the nightingales adders in your eyes, tigress in your hands, with silken soles you tread upon all with gloomy love and lamenting epitaphs the phallic majesty of your father, you pad along all alone as Clytemenstra for a few seconds, whispers the vile electrons of her body and Aegisthus drenched in blood abandons his erection death sovereign of each and all declares itself winding the catharsis in unblemished gloom. Justice comes from everywhere and glows all over.

Translation: Philip Ramp


Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou From: Collected Poems

How we fall into the night and from what longings . . . Decked out in keen loneliness I began to sleep, white, sweating within the cow of slumber completely enclosed by the dream which undulates in the depths and steadily gains on the matter beyond it. One day breaking cleansed my eyes; in the heavens all the windows were opening and Dionysios, dressed in black with white gloves, held a little worm in his palm, which seemed to be dyed with white lead, next to him on a beautiful beach the swimmers dove in after the cross of Epiphany and in the distance how innocent the gunshots sounded, the thunder of love, the joy of disaster with all the flowers ticking in blue seconds with all the sunbeams, the beloved butterfly in its sacred survival and dragons with scented breath climbing yellow stairways to the young girls who had not savored love. All around was a forest intensely green with birds innumerable as fruit on trees. with birds in intoxicated assembly forever, and a dog, moving slowly, peed on the trunk of a nearby almond tree with leg lifted and all the while the wailing slaughtered the voice which leapt from three words these dreadful millennia Translation: Philip Ramp

SUSPENSION To Thanos Konstantinidis

Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou From: Collected Poems

In the sky, possibilities are naught but thrilling. As I was hanging in the air holding on to a pure white cloud on a mythic screen of the imagination, I observed the quotations of the elements of my blood and heard a dazzling musical act practically non-human on the left of the geographical map at the point at which Mt. Terror lies always wreathed in lightning and blinding storms. I went up there once. There I first heard the song that said: we belong to water. And on the other side Ecclesiastes shined. For some time now Ive known that the blood contains all the mystery which is given through signs to the human mind, and complete discontinuity. The circulation perhaps? queried the brilliant pathologist. And suddenly Leonardo came to mind who knew what exquisite information derives from the body. 29 August 1990

Translation: Philip Ramp

Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou From: Collected Poems THE MELLOW BEHAVIOR OF BARBAROSSA Un Pote sauvage avec un plomb dans laile TRISTAN CORBIRE

An old man now and former smoker, all alone with his beard, strolling the heights in vain, from cloud to cloud, the human course, what a road it is, with tiny steps, comic and exhausted hearing in their pitiless music his cheap wooden shoes shuffling, Barbarossa used to say: Forgive me I cant help it, the senses lead me to the senses. Thats how he talked, he didnt say anything else, licking his lips with delicate emotion. He was oppressed by a large black hole in his chest which had now become old with flesh spilling out lamentably! Speechless, everyone wept for him, as if for a tame and pitiful dragon of bygone times and as if shocked, truly, for centuries the liars paid him, with hollow piety,

somewhat conventional respects. He, however, had a terrible kind of seriousness paying no attention to their innocuous respect moreover he never depended on it but suffering most profoundly his very self, the visions which sometimes slapped together like the wine-cooked wings of a slaughtered cockerel, he would suddenly throw his head back and become that merciless terror he once was opening his mouth in utter devastation like a hideous monster of wintry prehistory and detaching his dentures with a crack would drop them in a glass of water, without any delicacy, without any sense of inferiority, everyone around looking at him; hed clap his hands and a two-faced Turkish woman would come in silently and invisibly with heavy silk rustling how sorrowful the spectacle, a quick curtsy the white chair shoved up next to him. He then sat down (with obvious effort) making bizarre movements, his eyes fixed on his dentures. The bystanders left, one by one, with exaggerated kowtows, the hours moved steadily on, in line with a bad and sorrowful custom: reality. But he stayed there staring gloomily at his dentures submerged boundless integral . . . Sometimes, of course, sleep which knows about obliteration brought an end to his situation, but the next day the same thing: Forgive me I cant help myself, the senses lead me


to the senses. A band of cloud around the middle of a mountain thrills me . . . These words of Barbarossa half-idiotic, I would say, and anyway despairing, went day after day around the streets, the houses, the gardens and indeed in Constantinople, had become a common topic, a joke at the bakers, the grocers, the confectioners, the sunbathing hodjas who took pleasure in the futility of the wailing town-crier, the very cunning vizier, of the boatmen on the Bosphorus, the Beauty of Peran, but even of the acrimonious Sultan himself as the fishmongers said who sat in full fragrance in the most aristocratic neighborhood. But Barbarossa had his own drama . . . Reduced to nothing by age and full of ashen terrors and hallucinations, the one-time trophy-bearer of blood every now and then sidled up to the bitter windows to drive the full-bodied hallucinations out with his hands, spitting at the defenseless flowers in the large harmless garden and cursing the nightingales on the branches lamenting and leaning outward. Indeed it is said that once he called out to a servant: Life is a strong opponent, like the Koran, the crown of my glory is too large. A throw-away phrase. Nevertheless, the admiral would have meant it. And another time its said he passed out roaring these words: Ah, if I could only eat the light! and not see the iron pieces crossing on the clocks .

.. With such thoughts, truly wretched as figs which gape out in nature in July a rattle-trap the poor old man or rather a wide open door and winter itself thrusting in the numerous contradictions and his shuddering turned stiff as wood how strange, in such tender seconds. The world couldnt contain such despair, there was no God to strike the spark. Nature had now become for him even more fantastic, the grey rock layers, the saintliness of the shrubs. Painting, this miserable man would then decide on a Turkish bath, without resurrection, there amid the stuffy foggy steam, and dreamt in his fruitless sensual nakedness, of his destroyed loves all so very dead, of the easy erection in the bath with slaves like pure white lutes caressing now and then his inexplicable groin that old age had so disgustingly bagged. He would come out of there utterly relaxed and the books say that one day in spring two or three lunious water nymphs shoved him into ten paradises burning in an enamelled abyss, where he saw the Prophet lying down with bandylegged nights when one of them lighting up her lips cried out to him: Haredin, the tempest is the flowering of the sea and the poor man fell asleep.

Translation: Philip Ramp



Indeed the night is in my interest. First of all, it reduces ambition; moreover, it corrects thoughts; then, it collects the grief and makes it more bearable; it dissects the silence with respect; in the gardens it stresses smell, but above all, night envelops.

Translation: Philip Ramp



Home erectus, remote starting point of the Iliad, wouldnt it have been better if you dreamt on all fours? Wasnt the nightingale enough for you as it prayed among the aphrodiasic branches of the trees? What the hell did you want with the wanton Ode of the poet in his bitter and bloodshattered guts? Now you lose beauty twice in a horrible uprooting, howling about life and art. Ah mother what a tumbling down to grandeur . . . It must have been the savage erection I reflect which gave you oh homo erectus the feeling of standing upright in this world.

Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou From: Collected Poems

Translation: Philip Ramp



The man who rushed into most remote grief without one single rose with those eyes that kept their ochre so coarse, pushing into the half-uncovered deserted chapel the large crippled silence in the wheelchair of speech, always aware of the inexhaustible situation: that we are blood-stained amateurs of the Real with a mystery which desecrates the intellect dividing before the skin of the sea, raises Hades that much higher. The massive torrential storm smashes the eyeglasses and great fear seizes coming events, forming abscesses in memory. Flat on the ground of the unquenched silence, a mobile worm memento. The life that grows shorter: the great truth. Whomever the hoe digs in becomes part of hoeing, whomever drinks the water becomes part of drinking. Spring comes ever-virginal offering fragrances, holding by the thinnest of jet-black threads in the open air of night the spot where the small owl is, unknown beyond . . .

Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou From: Collected Poems

Translation: Philip Ramp



I would have improved the blue upliftings of the stalks but my brain is in collapse lamentable threads and unrustling fraying ends a lot of people outside waiting and I dont have even a phrase left, and if I wanted something: that is to go to my open grave on foot, jump inside at the ultimate moment the shovel-loads rapidly cocooning me till my image is lost. 25 June 1990

Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou From: Collected Poems

Translation: Philip Ramp


WOMAN, OBSTINACY OF ASIA You are a continent of the chest from the depths of races, you wander like the moon, pain is a tendril and your love mercury woman, obstinacy of Asia. When you cast a glance at the valleys ripening, as the winds take it to the heights, you exploit the branches and pour poison into the moon. Solitary as a murder, you dwell in consciousness conspiring against the divinities of birds, you with your rivery black hair, you again and again with your dark eyes. I tell the sun to pause without kindness ripping apart the great color of dream, tell it to fight you with bubbling sulphur and to demolish all of the memory that torments me. Look times have brought me to your steps the vegetable dinosaurs, the heavenly latitudes, a loose sheaf of blood, ready for scattering, when I cried out without reply: I want to become blue. You came to stay until death, purple reflections from you limbs, I asked but never learned where you found the dark, you lock up your sound in secret streams you alone, with the explosive voice of silence. You came to stay till the far-off dawn, you passed by bodies and are still travelling. I did not live and the beauty of Attica is my whole journey. Singing amid so much yearning I know nothing of the weapon of oblivion. Translation: Philip Ramp

Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou From: Collected Poems


Nikos Karouzos
(Greece, 1926 - 1990)

Nikos Karouzos was born in Nafplion in 1926 and died in Athens in 1990. He is considered one of the foremost Greek poets of the twentieth century. Karouzos took part in the Resistance and studied Law at Athens University. His first poems appeared in 1949, and between 1954 and 1990 he published more than twenty poetry collections. His final volume appeared, posthumously, in 1991. Karouzos also wrote literary criticism and essays on the theatre and art. Hereceived the State Poetry Prize twice, in 1972 and 1988. His collected workswere published between 1993 and 2002 by Ikaros in Athens: Poems Iin 1993; Poems II in 1994; his Selected Prose in 1998; and Interviews with NikosKarouzos in 2002. In 1993, a major Symposium on Nikos Karouzos was held atAthens University, the proceedings of which were published by Icaros in1996. In 2000, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of his death, asecond Symposium, again organized by Ikaros, was held there.

Gaol and Supplication

February 3, 2004 Examining the philosophical ideas behind Karouzos poetry, Tassos Goudelis finds that the concept of existence lies at the bottom of them all. This elemental word, shattered or rather proteanly transformable in Karouzos verses, offers magical flights, diverse hues and an unfathomable depth that simply astounds.


I suckle divinity / it suckles me Nikos Karouzos

For a reader like myself who (fortunately) still has not managed, in so many years, to find an answer as to why he places two of Nikos Karouzos poems (Solomos in My Dream, and The Meek Ways of Barbarossa) amongst the crowning moments of modern Greek literature, it is highly unlikely that I may begin to believe in the effectiveness of literary interpretation. My first observation entitles me to the right of flatly stating, from the very start, that, in my opinion, Nikos Karousos has already become a classic of our letters . . . It is in honour of Nikos Karouzos that this introductory and somewhat precipitate view is so brazenly expressed in stark antithesis to the coolheadedness that the in vitro researcher of aesthetic phenomena ought to display, so that he or she might gradually reach a conclusion (?) when appraising and not recklessly jump to any . . . I should also point out that the Karouzos phenomenon in the past few years has been dealt with by competent critics to an asphyxiating degree, although the debt owed by university specialists with regard to the critique of Karouzos work is still immense. The ensuing result has been that the frame and the origins of the philosophical or other concepts that Karouzos has focused on have already been pointed out. By this I am not insinuating that research has exhausted all the ideas that permeate the body of poetry of the creator behind Doe of Stars. Quite the contrary, since the substratum of philosophical concepts that Karouzos has been allured by is extremely rich. I merely wanted to draw attention to the fact that at a primary level, the range of concepts that Karouzos has obsessively ministered to is limited. And as I have already explained, a lot of significant essayists have already dealt with


these numerous ideas, so much so that you get the impression of repetitiveness when you attempt to approach Karouzos poetry in your own way. I am trying to say that you are compelled to regurgitate words like existence, language, time, appearances, being, ontology, etc. Having said that, once you go beyond the obstacle of the limiting terms that form the constituting parts of the philosophical identity of Karouzian poetry, you get to see an inexhaustible area of continuous mirages of a certain motif that encapsulates all the previous concepts: it is none other but the word existence. This concept may very well have never been used by any other poet the world over with so much intensity, anguish, lyricism and wry humour. This elemental word, shattered or rather proteanly transformable in Karouzos verses, offers magical flights, diverse hues and an unfathomable depth that simply astounds. In the hands of Karouzos, all the previous obvious and fundamental concepts were invariably stripped, scrutinised and observed as they took the form of monsters or angels, lost their weight or crushed him under, limiting him to their inner core sometimes as a prisoner and sometimes as a supplicant. I see you are not well today. Whats wrong? Existence is wrong A famous verse about which a great deal has been said. For Karouzos, existence as a concept carried the meaning, I believe, of a paradoxical reflexivity or idiopathy: in medicine idiopathy is a state occasioned in and of itself, whilst in grammar, reflexive is a person whose action returns back to him or herself. Karouzos felt that existence as a word contained something which, in reality, contained him. That is to say, he lived in that well-known antinomy, although he did not want to accept it; his


action seemed to begin and end in himself, whereas at the same time this whole process was controlled by an external force. This was because, he thought very simply, things in which I find myself and which I consume (and supposedly also deplete) are not mine. His dualistic theory, which originated from his quasi split between materialism and metaphysics, was a source of uninterrupted torment, often leading him to becoming painfully aware of the tragicomic element. The cosmocomic (a coinage that Karouzos, as well as Calvino may well have used when speaking about the issue of creation), imposed a presence of irony and sarcasm on his verses as well as a kind of insane and ingenious braying to the universe. For Karouzos, the world, things in general, are creations of language and time: these two concepts fuse with their creations and may become apparent like lightning exclusively through the medium of great poetry. At this point, it is easy to understand the dimension that the poet ascribed to the word create which in Greek is the etymological root of poetry (poio). Therefore, when Karouzos spoke of an ontological fusion of words and things (in Awe of Writing, a text about Dionisios Solomos), he was referring to the phenomenon of life itself, which, he added, may well be magical but we are able to perceive its magic exclusively through the gift of poetry: If such a fusion is at work in poetic expression (as in Solomos), then we have language, and poetry becomes life, it does not fade, it does not lose its bio-psychomental dynamics and the gift of magic on the contrary, it wins over time for good . . . Karouzos believed in language (in its core and sounds) but not in logos, which he considered to be a commentary (prolixity) on reality and not part of it. Conversely, he maintained that charismatic poetry served language (or the reverse, it did not


matter, since he spoke of a fusion between the two) and that through some kind of miracle an apparition of language takes place in great work. That is why he wrote very little prose, since he was adoringly devoted to poetry and the awe of writing it. One of the most appealing formal assets of Karouzoss poetry is its imagery. A lot of people have compared the structure of Karouzian language to that of film. I do not know whether the creator of Sleeping-bag was inspired by motion pictures, at a level of their art in linking or their pictorial power. Surely, however, he was influenced by painting; this observation is useful so that I may draw my comment to a close by reminding the readers of a symbolic image-painting whose meaning haunted Karouzos, from Solomos in My Dream: Solomos, a paradigm of anguish about language, who erects light and falls shattered, stands in the foreground wearing his white gloves and bearing a worm upon his palm, whilst behind him the Epiphany is taking place . . . Tassos Goudelis This essay was published in a special issue of Vivliothiki (a book-review section of the national newspaper Eleftherotypia) dedicated to Karouzos, September 25, 1998. Tassos Goudelis

Our Gods are Made of Clay

February 3, 2004 Although Karouzos is not a religious poet, God-inspired and spiritual elements play an important part in his work, argues Vangelis Xadjivassiliou. For though God features regularly in it, he does not do so in order to reassure or promise but to

enlarge and intensify the void of existence and the anguish and agony of death to their very limits. Reading Nikos Karouzoss poems again, particularly the ones that belong to his first collections, I think about the important role that the god-inspired and spiritual elements have played in his work and language. I should hasten to allay any possible reactions by elucidating right from the start the exact manner in which I am using the concept of god-inspired/ spiritual, although I am fully aware that I am treading on slippery ground. Of course I do not believe that Karouzos is a religious poet, nor that in any way he assumes any responsibility to lead his readers to a safe place that is bathed in the comforting light of a supermundane providential presence. As a matter of fact, I believe that what happens in Karouzoss poetry is exactly the opposite. For though God features regularly in it, he does not do so in order to reassure or promise but to enlarge and intensify the void of existence and the anguish and agony of death to their very limits. We should not forget at this point, after all, Karouzoss well-known verse-cum-confession: For I built my temple on three allures love, pain, immortality. Even so, leaving the thematic ideas aside, Gods face appears again and again in the poets books in yet another aspect: featuring incarnate in the form of Jesus, Gods face is invested with the venerable garb of Christian rituals and traditions and serves as a usually effective poetic ploy that enhances the power of suggestion of his language and intensifies its emotive force. We should, however, take things one at a time, starting at the field of thematic content. In Poems (1961), Christ appears in a fallen environment, where fundamental values and life meanings constantly retreat before the onslaught of decay and the paralysing void of existence. Without shedding any of his incorporeal erotic qualities, the Son of Man is metamorphosed


into a dreamlike mist that travels beyond objective, historic reality and returns to dwell in consciousness only as a shadow and reflection of the real world. What is essential in this particular matter (as well as in the lonely deposition from the cross in Griefs of 1969) is not faith in metaphysical transcendence but the awareness of a dramatic divine death, which is repeated every day ad infinitum at multiple levels and in diverse dimensions. Karouzos continues to identify Christ with joy and the offering of love (the typical repertoire of teachings in Christ), yet he does not expect anything from his redemptive coming and sacrifice. Whatever remains, whatever gets salvaged, belongs definitively to the mythical or the idealised past, whereas the issue of salvation or exit is in its turn transformed into an inner (bitterly accentuated) condition of literature. Our Gods are made of clay said the first king opening his yellow robe. Are you still waiting then? asked the other king And we stood there listening as if removed from our bodies and others that spoke came face to face with lonely silence while childlike winds blew from Jerusalem and Jesus is pending sang the cricket in the large vine Truly, friend, it was the vineyard that wakened the meek breeze of ancient Palestine. When God returns to the present, he is robbed of his retinue of angels and is buried like a common mortal. The same applies to the Doe of Stars (1962), where there is hardly any margin for escape left as long as the guilt-ridden serpent symbolises the heart-rending anguish of loneliness and the dead-end of existential desolation. Consecutive deaths of Christ are also witnessed in Sleeping-bag (1964), since the Iscariot triumphs over only a nominal Saviour who is forever entrapped in the role of victim and one way or another too incompetent and weak to


take charge of Judgement Day: So Jesus too is nothing, just spat on just the inner flame that melts at your touch and God barefoot, a lamb in the sky high on the sour cherry-tree that burns far in the west Ah how horrible is the water, a mere nothing, and the invisible is all we got as the knife at the throat of the cockerel. Is there at least a single chance for the slaughtered Lamb to gain his body back, when everything conspires to annihilate or enslave him, when religion and art (the hour of threat also for literature) mere blots upon the beast? We will not find the answer in the deliberately dry and ironic Band-Aid for Great and Small Antinomies (1971) but in the more conciliatory moments of Overgrown Chasms (1974): Trotskys constant revolution. I tore it down in Jesus constant apology. Gods celestial City then, or perhaps a willed divine utopia? The latter, without a doubt, if we take into account the open opposition to the revolutionary political vision of History and its (untold but clearly insinuated in this couplet) distorting implications. A utopia that does not feed on corporeal life and does not foster any illusions (going against its substance and nature). A utopia entirely based on the belief of a game that is lost in advance, a futile bet. It is time, however, to move from the God of ignorance and abandonment to the God of poems and writing. As we said at the beginning, Karouzos introduces Jesus in the laboratory of his verses in order to transubstantiate him into pure matter, into a sine qua non of his text, lighting his handed-down attributes from multiple points of view or transposing them ironically. A link between various historic periods of civilisation; an action hero or a protagonist of myth; a persona or a mask for the poet;


a catalytic factor in the staging of the poem and the creation of the mood; a lyrical morsel and symbol of love and despair, Karouzoss God remains in all cases a constant means of expression whose variations expand over a broad spectrum of revelations, disguises, or even metamorphoses. Caught between Medea and Oedipus in Doe of Stars, or again between allusions and biblical signs in Sleeping-bag, Jesus invariably suggests to the receptor the image of heart-rending suffering and ravage in a timeless landscape, where drama and the subsidence of present time seek and find their correspondences: Hail cold Galaxy paradisiac dust on faces hail sky-trotter and hail orthodox believer for you have sorrow like Vryennios you have the love from above like Marcos the Gentle you have the hair-shirt of Nikiforos Fokas the language of Chrysostomos the immaterial sights seen by Isaac the Syrian that black spruce in terrible wind which ravaged darkness in thousands of sparks. In hours of rest (when darkness retreats to the back of the stage so that the Athenian landscape may shine and the streets of a light-drenched, almost festive city may open), the voice of God is appropriately channelled to the erotic hymn and the glory of emotional fulfilment. It is emotions that the humble wanderer of Sign (1955), of Poems, and of Doe of Stars calls upon when he compares his stature to the height and size of the divine spirit, which intentionally and permanently keeps away from worldly affairs. Thus, the usual and commonly accepted model of the faithful becomes incorporated in the verse as an element of fragmentary narration and fiction to flesh out the poetic idea, whilst at the same time it appropriately stages the frame for its materialisation and implementation. Such faithfuls can be


directly represented by the ego of the speaker or symbolised indirectly through a third-person hero, who, willy-nilly, ends up facing death, an exile in the gutter or wayside of History and the world: The colours apportion women when the sexual incense burns in the streets Holy Thursday the sun in the morning who are you, lit up with sensuous stars In the darkest darkness in a wealth of threats lies the blonde submerged and John, always the wanderer through the deaths yet impossible to wander into death From the spiritual fall and the zero degree of existence to the pregnant symbolism of a purely poetic God; from the terror of void to the world-shaping order of literature, Karouzoss course is at the same time both cyclic and centrifugal. At each of its stages, however, it has new possibilities to offer, new prospects to offer. It is time then to try them and make the most of them. And let us not forget that the work has just begun.

This essay was published in a special issue of Vivliothiki (a book-review section of the national newspaper Eleftherotypia) dedicated to Karouzos, September 25, 1998. Vangelis Xadjivassiliou

Stones of Dreams
February 3, 2004 Exploring mathematics and the opera in the context of Karouzos poetry, Dimitris Kalokyris makes some wild leaps of

imaginative interpretation. Every word, taken as an alphanumeric, becomes the visual representation of the software of the reader in the poets memory. As we have seen so far, Nikos Karouzos has been obsessed with music and has outspokenly collaborated with Naught. Naturally, I am not referring so much to any of his nihilistic tendencies as much as to the fact that he wrote poetry in which he opposed Naught with many-digit imaginary numbers. It is a technique that has been used with much success in the past mostly to the benefit of the so-called applied sciences. From the moment, however, that mathematicians ended up describing the coordinates of language in arithmetic phrases of time, it became clear that any noetic weight these parameters may have ought to be expressed in numerical language; in other words, with verbal quantities (Numbers of Language). Every word, taken as an alphanumeric, becomes the visual representation of the software of the reader in the poets memory. I am not entirely conversant with the nature of logarithms, but it should not be ruled out that this is exactly what it is all about. Because, as we delve into Karouzos work, we observe that there is systematically at work a Poetic Machine that interlaces auditory matter, and produces torrents of highresolution intellectual images. (As far as I am aware the first person in the field of Greek painting to create hand-made digital images is Nikos Gavriil Pentzikis, though this claim remains to be verified.) Night has come, and the bed is the opera of the poor, as somebody said in some film. Taking into account the epigrammatic dissuasion of Karouzos: Do not read me if you do not know any pluperfects, we vaguely filter into a prolonged dream of February, in the present year, where I find myself, in the full moonlit night of a countryside confectioners, conversing with an adjacent person who is supposed to have ownership of several pages of the poets letters from his youth


and is keen to get them published. In one of the turns of sleep, it is revealed that the owner of the valuable manuscripts is a famous actress, only at a younger age. I dissuade her persistently with disjointed yet strong arguments, until, rising resolutely from her seat, she throws on the table a handful of thick green glass shards, possibly broken pieces of bottles smoothed by the sea, and quickly whispers: This is our correspondence during more than six years. And then, in a soprano voice, she concludes: The crystals of Karouzos! We are thus transferred in our dream state to the winds of Italy. The balcony of a lyrical theatre with a stage set of Caracallas Thermae, where, in clear Greek, an invisible, childrens (?) choir is reciting the Force of Destiny (La Forza del Destino a poem from the 1970s, if oblivion does not fail me), whilst a bemasked baritone appears centre-stage, letting the melody of Loukios Dallass Caruso dawn out of his mouth: Te Voglio Bene Assai: Perhaps on stage the roles are false but they come alive through the singers art and the props two eyes though so true and so near looking at you blur your thoughts, make you forget your words and it all becomes unimportant, even the nights over there, in America, the cycles that you are destined to live like the furrows of a propeller in the water . . . An aria travels through the tropical flora on the screen of sleep, like Claus Kinski traverses water, wearing a white linen suit with something of Aguirre in the scaly armour in his eyes now and then as a German-speaking Fitzcarraldo by Werner Herzog, where, with Claudia Cardinales hard-earned savings, he attempts to build an opera in the depths of the jungle driven by the ambition that Italian tenor Enrico Caruso might one day tread its boards.


Te voglio bene assai ma tanto tanto bene sai. And they travel up the river in a boat, launching the crystalline acrobatics of his voice from the gramophone set at the prow through the yellow waterfalls of the sky and the deafening silence of the parrots. Upon hearing the record, the hidden tribes of warriors wrap themselves in foliage and pray to their household gods: Tupa (lord of the waters of and lightning), Karay (Prince of Solar Fire), Takayra (Master of Mists), but mostly to Niamandou (hail, Lord of Words!). And their supplications reach favourable ears in various ways. The Irish Fitzcarraldo the auditory successor to the throne of my mind with Dennis Johnsons Fiscadoro visualised a melodic machine with which to plunder the riches of rubber from the virgin forests of Latin America and turn it into lyrical wages, technological melodramas, into a staged chlorophyllous ocean. He failed, precisely because he came up against the fundamental principle of Carousian poetics, which most simply stipulates that a true gentleman does not believe in machines. What wouldnt I give to listen to Caruso, says Miss Mary Jane in James Joyces The Dead when she is told a story of how, one evening, in Dublins old Royal Theatre, the tenor had been encored five times when he sang Let me Fall like a Soldier, going a C higher and higher each time. Caruso: a person of alcohol. In Italian it means an apprentice. In Sicily, in particular, it used to mean a labourer in the sulphur mines. Uncle Enrico, an ex-worker in a flourmill, died at an extremely young age, in February 1921. His face even got printed on a Romanian stamp at one point, and his life was dramatised on the big screen by Mario Lanza, likewise an ex greengrocer and lorry-driver.


Five years after Carusos death, Nikos was born, in Nafplion (sired by the Argonauts), a few hours before and three centuries after the assassination of 37-year-old Caravaggio. There, too, we can discern an odd alliance with that painter, for Nikos passed away in 1990, but on September 28, the exact date when Caravaggio saw the light of this world in 1573. It so happened that on the same date Melville, Auden and Breton also died. It seems that everyone of us, secretly, defines the language of his or her death. Issue 2.699 of the 57th year (August 9-23, 1979) of the French weekly literary review of the time Les Nouvelles Littraires, included a folio supplement with a densely printed tribute to modern Greek art and literature. This six-page supplement was edited by D.T. Analis, who was also responsible for most of the translations. I also contributed to the collection and partially to the choice of the material. Amongst the eighteen authors that were invited to express their personal relationship to writing was, of course, Nikos Karouzos. He wrote the following selfexplanatory text, typed in red ink and in the traditional polytonic system: Nobody asked me to write. Consequently, no mathematical logic is in my favour if I should seek justification. In the end, the way I am adapting to exist as a poet is like a man who is grazing his own personal sheep without being a shepherd at all. Possibly I may exist as a poet because I did not become an astronomer, as I imagined I would as a child, or a philosopher, as I thought about later, absorbed exclusively in philosophical interests. The fact is this: poetry keeps me hanging onto the bitterness that we call life, and life devotes me to poetry. I resent existing, but existing damn it to hell has a certain allure, as they say. This contradiction is crushing me. I would say that no, I am not a automobilist of verses, I am a walker of verses; I dont belong to highways (Pythagoras told us to avoid walking on them); I created my own path by myself, and nobody treads it but love and I. The poets drama, in my opinion, is not to express reality,


but to overcome it. The true poet creates outstanding business with existence thats what I believe and his vision, a chimera if you wish, is to break the fetters of reality. For me, poetry is an ontological self-illusion, unless the poet meets and achieves the freedom of existence (i.e. the extinguishing or reduction of the ego to the intellect of the heart i.e. what used to be called holiness) which shatters reality and leads man to the living infinity of universality.

Dimitris Kalokyris This essay was published in a special issue of Vivliothiki (a book-review section of the national newspaper Eleftherotypia) dedicated to Karouzos, September 25, 1998.