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Nikos Karouzos

A Selection of Poems

1
DROSS OF IMMORTALITY

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,
Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou I am disposed toward a
From: Collected Poems thousand years even if I fall
eternally on bloody
seconds;
the winds have pointed
me out.

May 1989

Translation: Philip Ramp

2
I PENETRATED MATTER
HOWLING

Two seas pursue me: life and


death
two currents which, damn
them, are in my heart . . .
I am trying to find in my dog-
drunk 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

3
POEM ON A TAPE RECORDER

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.
Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou Stop. Everything is erased.
From: Collected Poems 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

4
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.
Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou
Dont read me
From: Collected Poems
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

5
SOLEMN DRUMS OF TRAGEDY

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
Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou declares itself
From: Collected Poems winding the catharsis in unblemished
gloom.
Justice comes from everywhere and
glows all over.

Translation: Philip Ramp

6
SOLOMOS IN MY DREAM

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
Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou with all the flowers ticking in blue
From: Collected Poems 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

7
SUSPENSION

To Thanos Konstantinidis

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?
Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou queried the brilliant pathologist.
From: Collected Poems And suddenly
Leonardo came to mind
who knew what exquisite information
derives from the body.

29 August 1990

Translation: Philip Ramp

8
9
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
Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou once was
From: Collected Poems opening his mouth in utter devastation
like a hideous monster of wintry
THE MELLOW BEHAVIOR OF prehistory
BARBAROSSA and detaching his dentures with a crack
would drop them in a glass of water,
Un Pote sauvage avec un without any delicacy,
plomb dans laile without any sense of inferiority,
TRISTAN CORBIRE everyone around looking at him;
hed clap his hands and a two-faced
Turkish woman
would come in silently and invisibly
An old man now and former smoker, with heavy silk rustling
all alone with his beard, strolling the how sorrowful the spectacle, a quick
heights in vain, curtsy
from cloud to cloud, the human course, the white chair shoved up next to him.
what a road it is, He then sat down (with obvious effort)
with tiny steps, comic and exhausted making bizarre movements,
hearing in their pitiless music his eyes fixed on his dentures.
his cheap wooden shoes shuffling, The bystanders left, one by one, with
Barbarossa used to say: Forgive me exaggerated kowtows,
I cant help it, the senses lead me to the the hours moved steadily on, in line
senses. with a bad
Thats how he talked, he didnt say and sorrowful custom: reality.
anything else, But he stayed there staring gloomily at
licking his lips with delicate emotion. his dentures
He was oppressed by a large black submerged
hole in his chest which had now boundless
become old integral . . .
with flesh spilling out lamentably! Sometimes, of course, sleep which
Speechless, everyone wept for him, as knows about obliteration
if for a tame and pitiful brought an end to his situation,
dragon of bygone times but the next day the same thing:
and as if shocked, truly, for centuries Forgive me
the liars paid him, with hollow piety, I cant help myself, the senses lead me

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to the senses. ..
A band of cloud around the middle of a With such thoughts, truly wretched as
mountain thrills me . . . figs
These words of Barbarossa which gape out in nature in July
half-idiotic, I would say, and anyway a rattle-trap the poor old man or rather
despairing, a wide open door and winter itself
went day after day around the streets, thrusting in the numerous
the houses, the gardens contradictions
and indeed in Constantinople, had and his shuddering turned stiff as wood
become a common topic, a joke how strange,
at the bakers, the grocers, the in such tender seconds.
confectioners, The world couldnt contain such
the sunbathing hodjas who took despair,
pleasure in the futility there was no God to strike the spark.
of the wailing town-crier, the very Nature had now become for him even
cunning vizier, more fantastic,
of the boatmen on the Bosphorus, the the grey rock layers, the saintliness of
Beauty of Peran, the shrubs.
but even of the acrimonious Sultan Painting, this miserable man would
himself then decide on a Turkish bath,
as the fishmongers said who sat in full without resurrection, there amid the
fragrance stuffy foggy steam,
in the most aristocratic neighborhood. and dreamt in his fruitless sensual
But Barbarossa had his own drama . . . nakedness,
Reduced to nothing by age and full of of his destroyed loves all so very dead,
ashen of the easy erection in the bath with
terrors and hallucinations, the one-time slaves like pure white lutes
trophy-bearer of blood caressing now and then his
every now and then sidled up to the inexplicable groin
bitter windows that old age had so disgustingly
to drive the full-bodied hallucinations bagged.
out with his hands, He would come out of there utterly
spitting at the defenseless flowers in relaxed
the large harmless garden and the books say that one day in
and cursing the nightingales on the spring
branches two or three lunious water nymphs
lamenting and leaning outward. shoved him into ten paradises
Indeed it is said that once he called out burning in an enamelled abyss, where
to a servant: he saw
Life is a strong opponent, like the the Prophet lying down with bandy-
Koran, legged nights
the crown of my glory is too large. when one of them lighting up her lips
A throw-away phrase. cried out to him:
Nevertheless, the admiral would have Haredin, the tempest is the flowering
meant it. of the sea
And another time its said he passed and the poor man fell asleep.
out roaring these words:
Ah, if I could only eat the light! and
not see
the iron pieces crossing on the clocks . Translation: Philip Ramp

11
THE NIGHT IS IN MY INTEREST

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

12
THE SECOND DEATH

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 blood-
shattered guts?
Now you lose beauty twice
in a horrible uprooting,
howling about life and art.
Ah mother what a tumbling down
Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou to grandeur . . .
From: Collected Poems It must have been the
savage erection I reflect
which gave you oh homo erectus
the feeling
of standing upright in
this world.

Translation: Philip Ramp

13
THE STARRY PHOTOGENIC

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
Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou the unquenched silence, a
From: Collected Poems 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 . . .

Translation: Philip Ramp

14
WITH A LITTLE LEAF-MOULD

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.
Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou
From: Collected Poems 25 June 1990

Translation: Philip Ramp

15
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,
Mary Meimaraki-Karouzou when I cried out without reply: I want
From: Collected Poems 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

16
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.

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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

18
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

19
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

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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

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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

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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

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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;

24
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

25
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

26
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 co-
ordinates 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 high-
resolution 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

27
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.

28
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.

29
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 self-
explanatory 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,

30
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.

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