by Dr. Klitos Ioannides
As published in Volume 10, NO 4, December 2013
*Excerpt from an interview given to Panos Ioannides about the deeper function and meaning of poetry.
“The poet lies crucified between heaven and earth, between what is visible and invisible and between his own utopian view of perfection and the reality and imperfection of the wicked world in which we live, act and exist. From the scale and height of his cross he gazes down upon the world and with his bleeding heart he suffers and feels with the human race (Prometheus Bound). By descending (from the height of his cross) to the Hades of the world below, our three worlds (physical, emotional, intellectual) he prepares his poetic Resurrection, the Resurrection of the world and his own liberation.
Like Orpheus, Hercules, Odysseus, Persephone, Alcestis, Jesus Christ who descended to the domain of Hades, the poet too descends and enters the drama of the world, in other words, the human consciousness so as to raise it, invert it and lead it to refinement, and in a prophetic manner show it the way to the light of heaven. For this reason poetry is light that brings the revelation of truth to nations and cure and redemption to soul and body.
Poetic discourse then takes on transformative capabilites and becomes, in the hearts and minds of those who function poetically, a revolutionary discourse. Poetic discourse acts like an alchemist who transmutes reality and turns it into a precious stone and a stalactite of the eternal. Poetic discourse is the choice wine that Jesus made at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. Those who can taste this transmutational wine come to experience the beauty of God-begetting. They become God-begetters and what poetry is after is God-begetting, i.e. the sanctification and deification of our desacrilised world.
The space in which poetry functions is the entire universe and the poet is the ritualist and the doer of the works of God in the holy, cosmic functioning of the whole of Creation. Gazing, on a cold windy night, at the turquoise colour of a starry sky the poet sees, hears and interprets the music of God’s hieroglyphics and analyses the human macrocosmic patterns, while at the same time he makes reference to the infinite signs of God, that he comes across at every step he takes in the cities of men, in nature and in the mysteries of the Creator and Creation. In this manner, the poet becomes the great erotic mediator (Plato’s Symposium) between the world of the Gods and the imperfect world of men, healing with his significant and perfect act the traumas and wounds of death that the sick self of mortals carries. And the lofty meaning of poetry is nothing else than the oracular and prophetic power that possesses the divine grace to raise and elevate the earthly, the perishable and the deficient to heaven, taking them to the shores of God, to Paradise. Thus the poet’s discourse becomes the greatest learning experience, which takes place at the Holy Altar and an incessant divine communion and liturgy in the Holy of Holies, in favour of the world’s life and salvation. And all this through the process of elevation.
The true poets are defenders of life and freedom, because they can rebuke and they do rebuke the dangerous winds and walk on the waters. They are sacred sacrificial offerings on the world’s altar and table companions at the Last Supper in the immaculate Mysteries of the humbled God. Thus poetry becomes an Ecclesia (a Church) of the suffering God and of man with a mission, which is the hallowing of the world (Holy Liturgy). And the poet, a voice in the wilderness, prepares, through his word, the way of God, the way of the Saints (Andreas Empirikos, Odysseas Elytis). As a dancer the poet throws men into ecstasy and by his inspiration, he transfers them to the space of the immeasurable, the boundless i.e. the infinite, and the incomprehensible of the Mystery. He is an introducer-exponent of the “Eleusinian” Mysteries of Heaven, since poetry is not but the second state of the world, the area of creation, the Greece of high above, incomprehensible Greece (Odysseas Elytis), which, in its fate and exquisite hands, holds the future of the world. Poetry is Goethe’s eternal female. And for us Greeks, it is the merciful Aphrodite of Cyprus or Homer’s Helen, the goddess’ chosen, irrespective of how many Trojan wars she caused or is still causing. It is this Helen that Goethe recognized in his Faust.
So, my dear Panos, for me poetry is something beyond the iniversal of Aristotelian Poetics or the ecstasy over the supernatural in On the Sublime by Longinus the ancient aestheticist. It is, as I have stressed at the beginning of our conversation, the perpendicular of the cross, so that we may not lose sight of the scale that leads up towards the Poetic sky but also the horizontal of the cross, which signifies communication with and love of the humblest of our brethren. Poetry is, in my own vision and in my dream too, the Gospel in perpetuity, which means the Gospel in heaven and on earth and in the world but not from the world, the perpetual New Testament of God in the highest, the incessant effacement of the ego and the humble recognition of the soul, the inner self, the destoyer and builder at the same time. The poet is the hermit of the spirit and the ascetic of God (Rilke).
Translated by Costas Hadjigeorgiou