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Understanding Contemporary Greek Poetry through Games:

The Case of the 9th Paros Poetry and Translation Symposium[1]

We are living in “a ludic century, an era of history that has a special relationship to games.”[2]

This is what game-designer and theorist Eric Zimmerman claims in his 2013 Manifesto for a Ludic Century.[3] Yet already in 1938 in his seminal study Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture, the Dutch anthropologist Johan Huizinga had claimed that play pervades human life in all its aspects and demonstrated how it is expressed through language in various cultures. Play, he claimed, rises in culture and pervades all human aspects of everyday life, from commerce to the court or from philosophy to poetry. In 1958 the French sociologist Roger Caillois in his work Les Jeux et les Hommes, built upon Huizinga’s study, he argued that the type of games one plays constitutes a marker of his/here social milieu and he even proceeded to a useful classification of games as agon (contest), alea (games of chance), ilinx (vertigo) and mimicry. In other words, the popular saying “tell me what game you play to tell you who you are” is a fact. Indeed, play not only defines the player, but it also engages in it immediately everyone, regardless of age, and it allows for freedom to go against the grain, against conventions, by pushing the boundaries of thinking beyond the comfort zone. After all, play is creativity itself.

Choosing thus the theoretical model of play and games, which lies at the heart of my research interests[4] and activates my creative potential,[5] was natural for me. For I believe that play offers a different perspective when used as a creative tool, beyond the conventional mode of thinking, as so many theorists and critics of play have already shown, including the aforementioned ones. Therefore, I will use it to showcase some of the poems discussed at the 9th International Paros Poetry Translation Workshop that took place in Athens in July 2014, with the participation of more than twenty five poets. All these poems which I selected share the ludic element, either as a philosophical concept that constitutes the canvas of the poems or as a technique. To this end, I will draw on some of Miguel Sicart’s ideas on play and games as discussed in his book Play Matters, where he argues that to “play is to be in the world; playing is a form of understanding what surrounds us and a way of engaging with others. Play goes beyond games; it is a mode of being human” (1). Play matters indeed and it is a mode of being human, because, to quote again Sicart, “play is a way of being in the world, like languages, thought, faith, reason, and myth” (3). I will rely on play as both a theme and a technique to show what kind of poetry thrives today in Greece.

Along with Sicart, I reclaim play as a way of expression, a way of engaging with the world –not as an activity of consumption but as an activity of production. Like literature, art, song, and dance; like politics and love and math, Sicart adds, “play is a way of engaging and expressing our being in the world. . . . Through play we experience the world, we construct it and we destroy it, and we explore who we are and what we can say. Play frees us from moral conventions but makes them still present, so we are aware of their weight, presence, and importance” (5). A few lines later he argues that “[p]lay is contextual, in the sense that it happens in a tangled world of people, things, spaces, and cultures” (6). Because, like Sicart and like the Greek poets I will present, I believe in the transformative capacities of play (8); I will attempt to understand the state of contemporary poetry today in Greece through the ludic principle. I will start with examples that use play and games as a philosophical concept that goes back to Plato who considered the human beings as the plaything (toy) for the gods (Laws VII 803c2-6). Even in the Homeric epics, we have often encountered scenes describing the Olympian gods seeking fun by causing trouble to poor humans who are caught in endless turmoil in the struggle to survive. One also recalls the famous classic image of the Time imagined as a boy who plays pebbles on the seashore, a clear reference to the game of chance or the game of destiny, well captured by Theo Angelopoulos in the opening scene of his film Eternity and a Day in which he quotes Heraclitus’s fragment B 52.[6]

            It is as the topos of Destiny and Chance that game and play are employed in the poetry of Iossif Ventura and Angelos Parthenis. The former employs it as a meditation emanating from his experience of the Holocaust as a Jewish child who escaped the concentration camp by a game of chance when hidden by some Greek Christians. His devastating story is captured uniquely in the award-winning historic documentary Kisses to the Children by Vassilis Loules[7]. Parthenis, on the other hand, uses it in the context of uprooting. I begin with a discussion of Parthenis’s “VII,” the seventh of a series of eight poems entitled «Ξεριζωμοί» [“Uprootings”], which are based on interviews of the poet with uprooted people:



“… Τη μοίρα του ανθρώπου
ποιος τη γνωρίζει, τη μοίρα του;
Και δε μιλώ για τότε που είπες
«θα πάω αποδώ», «θα κρυφτώ εκεί»
και τελικά γλύτωσες, με τρόμο
με πρησμένα πόδια απ’ την πορεία
και τον διπλανό τον έφαγε το σκοτάδι
--που κι αυτά αν τα καλοσκεφτείς
ανεξήγητα, ακατανόητα όλα—
για κάτι μεγάλο, πολύ μεγαλύτερο
απ’ το μέγεθός σου. η κίνηση
τα κύματα στην Ιστορία και πιο πέρα
ένα παιχνίδι στον Κόσμο:
σε άλλους νόμους υπακούν
ευρύτερους, ακατανόητους
--αθύρματα, μας πηγαινοφέρνουν
και μόνο μετά, εκ των υστέρων
μετράμε συνέπειες ζημιές
θανάτους. αποσβολωμένοι.”

Μίλαγε σταθερά. η φωνή του
ηρεμία έφερνε
ένα βάρος σιωπής.

“κομμάτια μόνο βλέπουμε
απ’ το σχέδιο του παιχνιδιού
--αν τα βλέπουμε πραγματικά—
ποτέ το σύνολο.”



“…Man’s fate…
who can ever know it, his own fate?
And I don’s speak of when you said
‘I’ll go this way,’ ‘I’ll hide over there’
and in the end you were saved, in terror,
with feet swollen from the march,
while the next guy was swallowed by the dark
—and even those things, if you think about it,
incredible, unfathomable, all of them—
                                                                I speak of
something much greater, larger than
your own measure; the motion,
the waves of history, and beyond that
a game in the world:
they obey other laws,
broader, unfathomable
—tumble weeds, they blow us here and there
and only afterwards, in retrospect,
stunned, we reckon consequences,
damages, deaths.”

He was dispassionate, his voice
induced calmness,
a gravity of silence. 

“We only see
parts of the game-plan
—if we actually see them at all—
never the whole thing.”  

Translation by Angelos Sakkis


“We only see parts of the game,” “never the whole,” claims the uprooted speaker of the poem, summing up the tragic fate of the human being who has no say on his Destiny, who has become a plaything at the mercy of the wind. The metaphor of the game in the world is an allusion to the 1922 Asia Minor Disaster and the subsequent exchange of population, but also an existential anguish that applies to any context and any time frame.

The same tragic fate is captured in Iossif Ventura’s entire poetic universe, which is permeated by the Holocaust experience, and especially his poetry collections entitled Ταναΐς [Tanaïs] (2001) and Κυκλώνιο [Kyklonio] (2009). However, in his last collection entitled Το Παιχνίδι [Play] (2015), excerpts of which were translated during the 9th Paros Poetry and Translation Symposium, this dreadful experience is transformed into a kind of metaphysical wisdom achieved through the concept of play as a safe path that enables us to cope with intransigent reality.[8] In fact, in this collection, Ventura invites his readers to immerse themselves in the virtual reality in which he has placed his narrator-video gamer/player. Through a superimposed gaming reality, Ventura constantly reminds us about the fragility of human life and the pending erasure of human beings. It is exactly this theme of the abrupt and irrational extinction of human life that runs his entire poetic oeuvre and brings The Game together with his poetry collections Tanaïs and Kyklonion which revolve around his own experience of the Holocaust. Thus, the Game functions only as a remedy to this harsh reality and tough realization; as a reminder that every player is but a reflection of a virtual players, and inversely, that every virtual player is but a representation of a player/pawn in the game of Fate, echoing both Plato who also stated that the human beings are bit toys in the hands of gods, and  another Greek philosopher of our time, Kostas Axelos, who stated that «Το περιπλανώμενο «είναι» του ανθρώπου παίζει ένα παιχνίδι μέσα στο οποίο τα σχέδιά του αδιάκοπα διαψεύδονται». (“The wandering ‘being’ of man plays a game through which his plans endlessly are deceived” (Translation mine). Ο κόσμος είναι το παιχνίδι, ο άνθρωπος ο συμπαίκτης. «Σε μας εναπόκειται να μάθουμε να παίζουμε το παιχνίδι από το οποίο δεν μπορούμε να ξεφύγουμε». (“It is up to us to learn to play the game from which we cannot escape.” Translation is mine). By aligning himself with Axelos’s idea, Iossif Ventura expresses his will to intervene in the game/world by becoming one of its players who accepts its rules and therefore can come to terms with an otherwise unfathomable reality. The following sample of this collection gives us an idea of how he can manage to do so and ponder while playing a game on a screen:


Πήγε ο Μεντές για τη ζαριά
και θαύμασε πως ήρθανε εξάρες

Είπε ο Λεών

Για  θάνατο μιλούν κι’ είναι καλές
πόρτες θ’ ανοίξουν θες δεν θες
τοπία στο ‘Άγνωστο
Εκεί θα ταξιδεύεις

Σε μια οθόνη
το βύθισμα και η κραυγή
για το ελάχιστο που
το παιγνίδι κρύβει

Ροδίζει η αυγή
σπινθήρες προβάλλουν
σε μυστική ρωγμή

Σκοτάδι κι αστραπή
σ’ αδιάκοπη ροή


Αχ αμάδες ριγμένες στην αυλή
στου κέρσορα την προσταγή
το αδιάκοπο σεργιάνι

Ο βάτραχος, η γάτα, η ξερή
και   στρογγυλάδα
που όλο και μικραίνει   η Γη                                                                   


Τετράγωνο κρεμάλα σε κλωστή
Ποιο καπρίτσιο τι;
Οι χίλιοι έρωτες και οι Θεοί      
Τ’ άβαταρ και η στιγμή,
σ’ ονείρου πέτρα
θα ’χουνε χαθεί    
Ξόρκι ’ταν ή ευχή


Mendes went for
the dice
was amazed when
sixes came up

Said Leon
they tell of death and
they are auspicious
doors will open whether
you want it
or not
topoi in the unknown
that’s where you are headed

On a screen
the deep plunge and the cry
at the most insignificant thing
the game hides

Dawn pinkins
sparkles appear
in secret fissures

Dark and lighting
in continued flow


Oh teams thrown about
the yard
at the censor’s
the ceaseless stroll
The frog the cat
the plain one
and always
a roundness
extended upon the


Square hanging by
a thread
What caprice is this?
A thousand loves and the
The avatar and the instant
lost in a dream of stone
Spell was the wish.

In this poem, translated by Helen Dimos and myself, Ventura shows us how play is the only means of escape within the inescapable, both as an activity to be carried out and to be observed in this virtual game.

The same existential anguish also permeates the poetry of Lily Exarchopoulou. However, the uplifting result of the game we saw in Ventura’s poetry is missing from her work. Instead, her poetry weighs heavily and the outcome is the entanglement of the poetic self in a game-trap. This feeling is adequately captured in the following poem entitled “Στρατιωτάκια” (“Toy soldiers”). It is inspired by the children’s game «Στρατιωτάκια ακούνητα, αμίλητα αγέλαστα κι απ’ όλα» (“Toy soldiers motionless speechless unsmiling and everything”), tough children's game. Exarchopoulou employs it to convey an existential impasse due to the weight of traumatic memory:


Σταματώ σε ανάχωμα
σκοντάφτω, πέφτω μέσα
Λάβα υγρή παντού γύρω
τα ακατέργαστα σώματα
των πεσόντων

Πλησιάζω τα τοιχώματα
δια της αφής επιδιώκω
να αναστήσω ένα χέρι
Mπήγω τα νύχια στο κρέας
που ήταν κάποτε
κι όπου τώρα έχουν μείνει
ρινίσματα κοπετού
γρασαρισμένου στην άβυσσο


Tο πόδι μου σκαλώνει
σε άμορφη μάζα κρυστάλλων
Tο μεγάλο μου δάχτυλο
σχηματίζει πυρήνες αντίστασης
τροχιές επανάστασης
επιχειρώντας να μειώσει
τις σιωπές που εκτινάσσονται


χορεύουνε πάνω μου
ακέφαλα σώματα
αποκαΐδια μνήμης
εγγεγραμμένα σε αποθήκες
αυριανών μηνυμάτων
Kοχλίες αναταράσσονται
στην παντοτινή νηνεμία
H σάρκα διατάσσεται
λαβωμένη να εφορμήσει
Tα οστά να ηγηθούν
μιας νέας παράκρουσης

Παραλύω από ραστώνη
όλα ασύμμετρα και άγονα
Πετρώματα παλαιολιθικά
ορέγονται να καταβάλλουν
αφειδώς το ανάλωμα

Πλησιάζω το χείλος
O νεκρός της χθεσινής
ημέρας αποζητά τη ζωή του
από πάνω μου πιάνεται
Mε γεμίζει αμυχές
με νύχια που μεγάλωσαν
σε απέθαντο χρόνο


Συντρίβονται παντού
τροχαλίες και σίδερα
Eγκλωβίζουν τη σάρκα
πυροδοτώντας τον κόλαφο

                                                        H οσμή κατετάγη
στο απύθμενο χάος
H ακοή στις δονήσεις
ηχείου παλλόμενου
σε κόσμους εσωτερικούς

Δ εν β λ έ π ω

Tο έρεβος εστάθη
προσανατολισμένο στο σύμπαν
Aναθυμιάσεις κλασμάτων
αποδίδουν τη σύνθλιψη

Στρατιωτάκια ακούνητα
προσπερνούν τα τοπία
Aμίλητα αγέλαστα
απεμπολούν τη Zωή.


Toy Soldiers

I stop at a dug-out
I stumble, fall-in.
Oozy mud all-around,
The unprocessed bodies
of the fallen.

I reach for the sides 
Trying by touch
To rouse an arm.
I sink my fingernails in the flesh
That once was 
And where now the leavings
Of lubed lamentation
Pend in the abyss.


My foot catches
On a mass of amorphous crystal,
My big toe forms
Cores of resistance,
Trajectories of revolution
Trying to reduce
The exploding silence.


Bodies with no head
Are dancing over me
Cinders of memory
Registered in warehouses
For messages from tomorrow.
Conch shells are stirred
In the eternal calm
The wounded flesh is commanded
To charge on ahead,
The bones, to lead
A brand-new insanity.

I'm paralyzed by torpor
Everything is asymmetric and barren
Paleolithic rock formations
Are eager to pay generously 
the cost.
I come to the edge.
Yesterday's corpse 
Longs for my silence
And grips on to me.
He covers me with scratches
With fingernails grown long
In undying time.


Pulley blocks and iron bars 
are shuttered everywhere.
They trap the flesh
Igniting a slap in the face.
The sense of smell is consigned
|To bottomless abyss,
Hearing, to vibrations of a speaker
Throbbing in interior worlds.

I can't see
Darkness stands still
Oriented to the universe.
Fumes from the cracks
Convey compression.

Little soldiers, motionless
Pass by the landscape.
Speechless, unsmiling
defect from life.

(Translation by Angelos Sakkis, Lily Exarchopoulou, Vassiliki Rapti and Chloe Koutsoubeli)

Every stanza is built upon each of the words-commands of the game “Toy soldiers motionless” and all together are powerfully summed up in the last stanza: “Little soldiers, motionless, pass by the landscape. Speechless, Unsmiling defect from life.” In general, Exarchopoulou knows the craft of incorporating children’s games in her poetry in a manner that conveys feelings of existential crisis.

Likewise, another Greek poet, Siarita Kouka, a marine archeologist who has extensively studied the female portraits of Greek tragedy, finds inspiration in children’s games in a manner that unveils the irony of the female tragic heroine, such as Iphigenia. In her poetry collection The Swing (Η κούνια) translated by Angelos Sakkis, Kouka portrays a little girl while taking pleasure in playing at a swing. At some times innocently, and at others in a manner reminiscent of the tragic end of tragic heroines - that is, by hanging, a way of liberating them from the weight of their masters, as the French scholar Nicole Loreaux has convincingly shown in her seminal book Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman (1987). In other words, the girls’ play at the swing is transformed from the comforting strokes of the cradle to the dangerous precipitation of death by hanging.

In short lines, Kouka gets at the heart of the irony of the game of the swing, as the following lines show.

Ένα μικρό κορίτσι
Που μέτραγε τα βήματά του
Και κατάλαβε πως
Δύο ίδια βήματα δεν υπάρχουν.
Διάλεξε το πιο ψηλό δέντρο
Κι έκανε κούνια ανάποδα.

There was
A little girl
Who counted her steps
And understood that
Two identical steps don’t exist
She chose the tallest tree
Climbed it
And upside down she made a swing.

Indeed, play can be proven dangerous after all, sometimes even addictive, yet liberating. At best, it is the guiding principle behind every poetic endeavor. It is as such that I will now proceed to approach it, that is, as an artistic activity that calls for experimentation with words and various techniques, such as the poem “Poeta Ludicus” from Zapheiris Nikitas’s poetry collection Πισώπλατος ουρανός [Back-Stubbed Sky] (2010) aptly shows. This poem deals exactly with the poetic art as a ludic activity similar to the lego building technique, where the same-sound “λέγω” (“to say”, “to tell”, “to speak”) acquires a new meaning, when the fingers of the poet are described as

σκόρπια κομμάτια lego είναι, ταγμένα σε άλλα πάνω λέγω
να συναρμόζονται,
όπως ακριβώς στη διαφήμιση της βιτρίνας

scattered lego pieces they are, piled one on top of the other I say
to join one another,
as exactly in the display ad

In other words, Nikitas returns to the root of the poetic art as an essentially ludic activity by associating the art of logos with the art of lego industry, to ironically claim the primacy of such amalgamated art. This cryptic poem plays upon the phonetic correspondence of the word Lego and the Greek verb λέγω, meaning to say, to tell, to speak, to utter, to suggest, all of which allude to the primary source of the poet. This pun is the starting point for the creation of the poem, as Nikitas finds a strikingly corresponding image between the Lego bricks and the parts of the fingers. This image is completed with the verb λέγω that draws attention to their assembling.

The remarkable pun as the beginning of the poetic process, no matter how ironic it sounds, especially when it uncovers the commodification of everything, takes an unprecedented turn in the case of Nanos Valaorits. Valaoritis, a seminal figure of Greek letters and the last Greek Surrealist, has actively participated in the ludic activities of the French Surrealists under the guidance of their leader, André Breton. I examine here a poem that is similar to the one by Nikitas in the sense that it is built upon an everyday expression that has multiple meanings: the expression «take me» in all its perplexed connotations, translated by myself in collaboration with Nanos Valaoritis.

              Της Ειρήνης Ματθαίου

Πάρε με στο σταθερό
πάρε με να μην ξοδεύουμε
θερμίδες με σπασμένα νεύρα
και ντομάτες γεμιστές φαρσί

Πάρε με στο τραπέζι της κουζίνας
ανάμεσα στα ψώνια τα λαχανικά
πάρε με βίαια βιαστικά πριν να...
δεν μπορώ να περιμένω πια

πάρε με όταν γυρίσεις απ’ το Αφγανιστάν,
το Ινδουκούς, το Βελουχιστάν, το Ερδογάν
απ’ τα ενδότερα της Ασίας Αφρικής
όπου κατοικούν ακόμα ασημένιοι
μικροσκοπικοί οπλίτες Ρωμαίοι

πάρε με —με φωτογραφική μηχανή
του τελευταίου τύπου —μία Ρόλεξ
ή μ’ ένα --καλύτερα—digital κινητό

όταν θα στέκομαι στην πόρτα
χαμογελαστή με το γαμήλιο τούλι
με το απλό φορεματάκι απ’τα α φτηνά
τα έτοιμα να φορεθούν —πάρε με όπου

όπως θέλεις όπου μπορείς όπως
σε βολεύει ΠΑΡΕ ΜΕ
που να σε πάρει ο διάβολος
και να σε σηκώσει.

(Αθήνα, 29 Δεκεμβρίου 2011-1 Ιανουαρίου 2012)


        To Irene Matthaiou

Take me on the landline
Take me not to spend
Calories in broken nerves
And stuffed farsi tomatoes

Take me on the kitchen table
Amidst purchases and greens
Take me in a hurry violently lest...
I can't wait anymore

Call me when you are back from Afganistan,
Indoukoush, Velouchistan, Erdoghan
From the inner land of Asia Africa
Where the silver people still inhabit
Tiny Roman warriors

Take me--with a state-of-the art camera-- a Rolex
Or --better yet-- a smart phone

When I will be standing at the door
Smiling in the wedding lace of
a simple dress from the cheap,
the ready-made- ones take me wherever

As you wish where you can as
It is convenient for you TAKE ME so that
the devil may take you to Hell.

(Athens, December 29, 2011-January 1, 2012)


The repetition of the expression “take me” in a multitude of contexts and in a frenetic pace from the simple reference to a phone call to its erotic connotations, not only has a comic relief effect in the end, but also it functions as a catalyst of social criticism against the absolute commodification, globalization and carnivalization of contemporary world. It also alludes to the unbearable living conditions of the inhabitants of Greece today, amidst a crisis upon which he has written extensively and overtly. This is the spirit of the entire collection entitled Πικρό καρναβάλι [Bitter Carnival] (2013). What Valaoritis has shown here is that playing games and creating puns can be also a source of entertainment, a source of pleasure derived from wit and from experimentation for the sake of experiment. Experimenting for fun, with the purpose of challenging the limits of writing is a recurrent practice in Nanos Valaoritis’s work. It goes back to his apprenticeship next to André Breton, during his stay in Paris (1954-1960). As he himself admits, “he followed Breton’s entire itinerary and choices “with the attention of a novice” (For a Theory of Writing B 171). “Without this six-year internship with the Parisian group,” Valaoritis admits,

it would have been impossible for myself to complete my knowledge on the most secret and invisible and most personal aspects, since I met there so many other people, such as Alain Jouffroy, Victor Brauner, Wilfredo Lam, Maurice Henry, Matta, Marcel Jean, and of course Calas. Surrealism at that time seemed to have been erupted and its fragments were dispersed everywhere, like a newly-appeared constellation” (ibid).

 It was at this time that he practiced the so-called surrealist games[9]. Despite their origin as a source of fun among friends, surrealist games became a collective experience that systematically explored the unconscious through automatic writing. As Mel Gooding notes, “[m]ost specially and remarkably, it was through games, play, techniques of surprise and methodologies of the fantastic that Surrealists subverted academic modes of enquiry, and undermined the complacent certainties of the reasonable and respectable” (12). Likewise, Valaoritis has long played the Devil’s advocate, always at the forefront of the Greek avant-garde even at the ripe age of 95. His prolific writing, for which he has received a life-time award from both the Greek and American Academy of Letters, is activated by the ludic principle: always playing games in three languages and constantly playing through them and against any kind of crushing authority. Characteristic are his series of Oedipus-Pig and In Hog we Trust plays, which attempt to undo the Western Canon. I stress that an entire generation has been heavily influenced by his writing style that blends different genres thanks to a masterful use of the element of play. I myself for instance, have been influenced by his work and by his emphasis on puns, as the following poem shows:



Στους κρημνούς των τσινόρων.

Στων πεισμωμένων Συνόρων
Τους άδειους λάκκους

Στο ζύγι
Των ζυγωματικών
Της υγρής κοιλάδας.

Ο ίσκιος της
Τις διστακτικές εστίες φωτός
Της γήινης όρασης.

Εδέσματα ηδυπαθή.
Υποθήκη στο όνειρο.


A volunteer’s

on the eyelashes’ precipices.

On the stubborned Frontiers’
Vacant pits,

Under way
to the weighing
of the cheekbones
of the wet valley.

Its shade,
is shading
the vacillating hearths of light
of human vision.

Voluptuous dishes.
Pledge of a dream.

(Translation in English by Petros Georgiou)

And here is another poem of mine, “Transitorium” in an adaptation by Stephen Mooney. This poem gave the title to my homonymous poetry collection Transitorium (Somerset Hall Press, 2015) and takes the element of play to the level of performance:


Vassiliki Rapti

In Memory, March 22, 2014

 In situ


 in fact


                       In transit                                                       


 in truth 


                                   in situ


 in memorium




 in reality




in Latin truth


                                                                  de facto


 in Spanish friendship






                                          in transit

















                                                                rock me










 in a galaxy far, far away














                                                     against forgetfulness’














                                                      in volley








Similar is the next poem of mine, entitled Towards a path of dismemberment, translated into English by William Rowe:


a path of dismemberment

a path of borrowing

divident of responsibility

of logocracy


with no verb


at the edges 
          of borders

the victim


                              for an eagle’s flight


the blatant madness

of a victim

I dismember

the language

the “I”

the “I can”


like the time machine


            the crowd


                                       the vacuum tacit struggle

of a neck

communicating vessel


You can notice how the words here tend to go beyond the text. It is a graphic depiction of what I mentioned earlier as a poem in search of performance or else a performance poem that was performed at the closing night of the Symposium, when four people, William Rowe, Angelos Parthenis, Zafiris Nikitas and myself, recited this poem simultaneously by constantly exchanging roles automatically.
A similar playful experiment we also attempted in the frame of the Advanced Training in Greek Poetry Translation and Wortkshop when I performed this poem with Vladimir Boskovic, Julia Dubnoff and Maria Zervos. Interestingly, parts of that performance were embedded in the performance of this poem' s music rendition by my collaborator Kostas Rekleitis, performed by tenor Yannis Filias, as sample of which can be heard here:

I could list countless poetic examples from contemporary Greece that are mobilized by the concepts of play and games either as a theme or a strategy for the artistic creation. One thing that I hope has become clear by focusing on the case of the 9th Paros Symposium of Poetry and Translation is that contemporary poetry has reached a new era thanks to the embrace of the ludic principle which offers an outlet to the imagination and invites collaboration across arts and across countries. Playing games is an essential part of artistic creation. In fact, as Brendan Johnson states on the back cover of Play Matters, “play is the creative process.” He adds in the aforementioned quote: “Sicart shows why play is something that must be taken seriously, why it leads to better, more beautiful, more considered work, and ultimately why play does indeed matter.”  Contemporary poetry has reached a new era thanks to the ludic principle and as such, unlike in the economy, is well-prepared to meet the challenges of the ludic 21st century in the field of poetry. After all, the wealth of many anthologies of Greek poetry that sprang a propos of the Greek crisis bears evidence of this.[10] What is sure is that contemporary Greek poetry displays a wide range of games and their avatars, from traditional children’s games to video games, erotic games and wordplay to all kinds of language games.  As such, it is a true offspring of our ludic century.


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Eternity and a Day, Dir. Theodoros Angelopoulos. Theo Angelopoulos Films, Greek Film Center, Greek Television ET-1, 1998. Film.
Exarchopoulou, Lily. «Στρατιωτάκια» [“Toy Soldiers”]. Accessed May 16, 2016.
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Kisses to the Children. Dir. Vassilis Loules. Greek Film Center, Hellenic Radio & Television (ERT), and Massive Productions, 2011. Film.
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Lambropoulos, Vassilios. Accessed May 16, 2016.
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Nikitas, Zafeiris. Πισώπλατος ουρανός [Back-Stubbed Sky]. Athens: Gavrielides, 2010. Print.
Parthenis, Angelos. “Ξεριζωμoί” [“Uprootings”]. Unpublished.
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---. Transitorium. Boston: Somerset Hall Press, 2015. Print.
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---. Πικρό καρναβάλι [Bitter Carvival]. Athens: Psychogios, 2013. Print.
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---. Το παιχνίδι [Play]. Athens: Typothito-Lalon Ydor, 2015. Print.
---. Ταναΐς [Tanaïs]. Athens: Gavrielides, 2001. Print.
Zimmerman, Eric. Manifesto for a Ludic Century. Accessed  May 16



[1]This paper was first presented as the Annual Sam Nakis Memorial Lecture at the University of Missouri-St. Louis on September 11th, 2014 and I would like to express my thanks to Professors Michael Cosmopoulos, Nikos Poulopoulos, and Joel Glassman. For more information, see:

Also I would like to thank all the participants in the 9th Paros Poetry and Translation Symposium who kindly gave me permission to include their work, which can be found in this site: Finally, I would like to thank Angeliki Asprouli for her assistance.

[2] See:
[3] See the entire manifesto here:
[4] See my monograph Ludics in Surrealist Theatre and Beyond (Ashgate, 2013):
[5] See my research blog “Ludics in praxis”:!ludics/c70mp.
[6] See:
[7] See:
[8] This is also what I claimed in my introduction to the poetry reading of Iossif Ventura’s poetry reading at Harvard on April 6, 2016.  For more details, see:
[9] For an extensive discussion of surrealist games, see my work Ludics in Surrealist Theatre and Beyond.
[10] Vassilios Lambropoulos offers a comprehensive list of all the latest anthologies of Greek poetry associated with the Greek crisis here: