Austerity MeasuresThe New Greek Poetry
Since the debt crisis hit in 2008, Greece has played host to a cultural renaissance unlike anything seen in the country for over thirty years. Poems of startling depth and originality are being written by native Greeks, émigrés, and migrants alike. They grapple with the personal and the political; with the small revelations of gardening and the viciousness of street fights; with bodies, love, myth, migration, and economic crisis.
In Austerity Measures, the very best of the writing to emerge from that creative ferment is gathered for the first time, much of it never before translated into English. The result is a map to the complex territory of a still-evolving scene—and a unique window onto the lived experience of Greek society now.
One of the few benefits of turbulent historical moments is that they tend to give rise to a new cultural efflorescence. Nowhere is this more obvious than in this fascinating anthology, which gathers together a remarkably rich, resourceful range of poetic idioms in response to a common sense of moral and political emergency.
It was no more than two or three poems in before I started to sense the book’s atmosphere, to see it as an uncommon chance to share Greek experience beyond the headlines—in a way that is fascinating, revelatory and only possible through poetry. Most poems here do not overtly address the crisis. But the collective spirit is new-minted, unmediated and bracing (the quality of translation high).
—Kate Kellaway, The Observer
Austerity is a self-defeating economic policy which has taken an ugly toll in Greece. The silver lining is that, along with the mass unemployment and the rise of Nazism that it engendered, austerity also occasioned a cultural renaissance. This volume of multilingual poetry is a splendid example: living proof that the Greek crisis is of global significance. It deserves an international audience. Now!
The light these poets work in, and the language they speak, are still the light and the language of Homer and the great tragedians. Austerity Measures, appearing as Greece faces new difficulties and suffering, offers a newly poignant, imaginative, and resonant body of work. The wonderfully inventive translations reveal a different Greece to English readers: one that does not cancel the past but builds upon it.
Karen Van Dyck has collected an extraordinary group of poets and translators who are bound to put Greek poetry on the map again. I’ve seen it happen twice in my life: with the Generation of the Thirties that included Cavafy, Seferis, Elytes, and Ritsos, and that reached world recognition; and again, during the Dictatorship of the Colonels, when the group that appeared in the Harvard anthology Eighteen Texts (1972) and others living under censorship earned international recognition with the help of accomplished translators. Now, during another crisis in the country, we find exciting new voices emerging, and I am convinced that they are once again saying something no one else is saying. Call it the knowledge that emerges from the underside of devastation and the creative illumination that comes with tragedy, but something is going on in Greece that we aren’t seeing in the news. I give this anthology my strongest support.
Karen Van Dyck’s Austerity Measures is a timely trove of new Greek voices that reverberates with urgency and authority, girded with hard-earned truth and a deep seeing necessary for our twenty-first century. Here’s a language that goes for the gut and the heart, an earthy sonority. It holds us accountable for what we witness and feel in a time of globalism. This marvelous compendium of lived imagery speaks freely.