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Meet the Greek writers revolutionising poetry in the age of austerity

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A new group of poets is changing the arts landscape in Greece. Fearless, global and with an artistic fervour unseen since the dictatorship, they tell us their hopes, the culture that excites them – and the Greek myths they’d like to debunk

A new kind of poetry is flourishing in Greece’s streets, bars and cafes. It is popping up not just on magazines, small presses and websites, but on graffiti walls, and in music, film, and art. Not since the dictatorship that shook the country in the 1970s has there been such an abundance being written. A new anthology in English translation,Austerity Measures, compiles some of the most revolutionary.

Former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis is a fan, calling it a “silver lining”, the one good upshot from austerity policies that have shattered the country. “Along with the mass unemployment and the rise of neo-Nazism that it engendered, austerity also occasioned a cultural renaissance,” he writes. “This volume is ... living proof that the Greek crisis is of global significance.”

I woke at sunrise to change
the window, warped from looking
across, slicing my view.
I open the shutters, wild
from the wind and misfortune.

Related: The new Greek poetry

Boiling water, always boiling water
Learning that what is scarce is what takes charge
Learning how Π and T lose their flat roofs
How ζ and ξ dry up at the roots
How vowels get murdered
How language bubbles up

An offering of the silent
For those who grew silent

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imprisoned in a filthy cage
a ceiling without sunrise
little beetles on the floor
in the sink a dark lake

Related: Greek arts festival in turmoil as artists rebel over curator's 'Belgian' vision

My words are homeless
They sleep on the benches of Klafthmonos Square
covered in IKEA cartons
My words do not speak on the news
They’re out hustling every night
My words are proletarian, slaves like me
They work in sweatshops night and day

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I open the balcony doors.
You’re singing.
But the rain is louder.
It comes into the house.
Hits the lampshades.
Knocks over the lights.
Collides with reality.

Related: Classics for the people – why we should all learn from the ancient Greeks

The Danny F bound for Syria
Like an arc; for slaughterhouses
But it flounders with the waves
Of the sea that does not wash out

What gives me hope? The turning wheel of history: things are due to eventually get better

Related: And Greece created Europe: the cultural legacy of a nation in crisis

Oh, yeah – Mama’s
an important poet

all day she cooks up commas
sweeps tenses under the rug

Related: Sign up to our Bookmarks newsletter

Because
as much as I smoked
I never found my inner thread
so many loves
so many breathlessness

and the Minotaur,
my God, what a fiddler

It is very encouraging to see young people reading poetry, something which I regard as a political act

all of you think I was scared shitless that’s why I dove
head first into the abyss
god what idiots for once I took my life into my own hands
and let myself
drop provocative like in front of their eyes immense
ghoulish I stick my tongue out
then in that last moment I see a girl with a sad look in the
midst of the crowd

Related: Austerity Measures: The New Greek Poetry – review

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