Odysseas Elytis is one of the most important Greek poets. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978. Elytis was born in Heraklio, Crete was on November 2, 1911, in Heraklion, Crete and died in Athens on March 18, 1996. He is considered one of the biggest promoters of romantic modernism in Greece and the world.

Elytis’ real name was Alepoudelis. His family originally came from the island of Lesvos and later moved to Athens, where the poet graduated from high school and later attended courses as an auditor at the Law School at the University of Athens.

Elytis published his first poem in 1935 in the journal New Letters (Νέα Γράμματα) at the prompting of George Seferis. His poems with a distinctively earthy and original form helped start a new era in Greek poetry and its subsequent reform after the Second World War.

From 1969 to 1972, during the Greek military junta of 1967-1974, Elytis exiled himself to Paris. He was romantically linked to the lyricist and musicologist Mariannina Kriezi, who produced and hosted the legendary children’s radio broadcast “Here Lilliput Land” (“Edo Lillipoupoli” in Greek). Throughout his life, Elytis was intensely private and vehemently solitary in pursuing his ideals of poetic truth and experience.

“Όμορφη και παράξενη πατρίδα ω σαν αυτή που μου ‘λαχε δεν είδα.”

“I’ve never seen a homeland more strange and beautiful.”

Beautiful and Strange Homeland – Odysseas Elytis

Της δικαοσύνης ήλιε νοητέ

Της δικαιοσύνης ήλιε νοητέ
και μυρσίνη συ δοξαστική
μη παρακαλώ σας μη
λησμονάτε τη χώρα μου!
Αετόμορφα έχει τα ψηλά βουνά
στα ηφαίστεια κλήματα σειρά
και τα σπίτια πιο λευκά
στου γλαυκού το γειτόνεμα!
Τα πικρά μου χέρια με τον Κεραυνό
τα γυρίζω πίσω άπ’ τον Καιρό
τους παλιούς μου φίλους καλώ
με φοβέρες και μ’ αίματα!

Notional sun of justice

Notional sun of justice that shines through
and you aggrandizing myrtle too
please oh please, I’m begging you
please pay heed, to my land anew!

It has eagle-shaped mountains reaching high
on volcanoes, terraced vineyards lie
and the whitest houses by
a blue sea that meets the blue sky!

Holding thunder into my embittered hands
I return them way back in time’s sands
I’m calling my old good friends
with cruel threats and bloodline commands

The poetry of Odysseas Elytis

Elytis’ poetry has touched a broad spectrum of subjects and styles with an emphasis on the expression of that which is rarefied and passionate. Elytis borrowed elements from Ancient Greece and the Byzantine empire but devoted himself exclusively to today’s Hellenism, of which he attempted to reconstruct a modernist mythology for the institutions. His main endeavour was to rid Greeks from remorses, to achieve a transparency in expression and, to succeed in approaching the metaphysics of “worshiping” the Aegean sun.

A parallel manner concerning technique resulted in introducing the inner architecture, which is evident in a great many poems of his; mainly in the phenomenal landmark work To Axion Esti. Mikis Theodorakis wrote the music to Axion Esti (as an oratorio) and transformed this work into an athem revered and sung by all Greeks for all injustice, resistance and for its sheer beauty and musicality of form.

Elytis also wrote a number of essays where he expresses and explores his theoretical and philosophical ideas. Other than writing his own poems Elytis has also been translating poetry and theatre. Translations of his poetry have been published in 11 languages.

Read more about Odysseas Elytis here: Odysseas Elytis – Wikipedia.org