O Future Past

In November 2015, The Pigeonhole launched Letters from Greece, a series of essays about everyday life and culture during the Greek crisis. Around the same time, Penned in the Margins published a poetry anthology, Futures: Poetry of the Greek Crisis. We asked Futures editor Theodoros Chiotis to select poems from the anthology to feature as extra content in Letters from Greece – one poem per letter. Here, he discusses the project.

Athens © Dimitris Karaiskos
Athens © Dimitris Karaiskos

I, like many others, belong to a generation of European citizens who will probably be archived as a historical anomaly – a generation of citizens raised to believe in a wider European familial bond, one that could transcend cultural, political and historical differences. Of course, in retrospect we have come to realise the illusory nature of that belief. The past six or seven years have been not only sobering but also proof that seemingly good intentions and grand visions can be torn asunder as easily as cobwebs. Many of the pieces in Letters from Greece and Futures: Poetry of the Greek Crisis function in direct or indirect ways as testimonies – not only to the application of the baleful neoliberal strategies employed supposedly to contain the crisis but also to how the social and cultural map of Greece (and Europe) has been altered in ways hitherto unimagined.

What does it mean to live in Greece during a time of crisis? The question is almost inevitable. The poems in Futures: Poetry of the Greek Crisis and the essays in Letters from Greece approach the so-called crisis not as a single event but rather as a slow unravelling of the nation’s social and cultural fabric. It would be more accurate to describe the experience of the fiscal (and attendant social) crisis like something out of a Ballard or a Miéville novel: characters find themselves in a world suddenly forested with events that attain mythical status as soon as they happen; unseen cracks run through our lives and we have to navigate around them. The future Greeks once anticipated is already cancelled or indefinitely postponed. The crisis has slowly eroded and transformed the ideas we had about ourselves, our lives and our personal and collective futures, and the texts in both Futures and Letters are testament to this change. We are collectively trying to articulate how we have come to consider ourselves and what the future holds. And we are mourning what we cannot recover or what will never come to be. The crisis unfolds psychic terrains and plateaus we never thought we would cross. We now find ourselves experimenting with living through and enduring the crisis. Every day we write an updated field guide to surviving these difficult, fearful times.

It is interesting to note the ways in which the poems and the non-fiction of Letters from Greece pick apart the legacy of the noughties and examine the visceral experience of living during the crisis in Greece: these texts document not only the changing social topography of Greece (and Greek people) but also the impact on the psychic landscape of Greece (and the wider European community). The statistics and data published on a regular basis do tell a story, but they only hint at the palpable misery, plummeting living standards and the attendant intensity of suffering (and occasional bouts of joy) in Greece right now. Τhe poems I have chosen to accompany Letters from Greece initiate an indirect dialogue or argument with each of the essays and, in so doing, highlight the urgent need for connection, solidarity and alertness. The writing in Letters from Greece and in Futures: Poetry of the Greek Crisis alerts us to an emerging generation of writers and poets who write in precarious conditions and refuse to give in to despair and fear.

Futures coverSubscribe to Letters from Greece to read the letters and their paired Futures poems. If you are already subscribed, you will now find the poems at the end of each stave, marked by a purple icon.

Futures: Poetry of the Greek Crisis edited by Theodoros Chiotis and published by Penned in the Margins is available to purchase at a 20% discount here.

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