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John Kittmer, “‘From the Tip of My Little Finger a River Flows:’ Yannis Ritsos’s Response to Dictatorship (1967-1970)”
‘From the Tip of My Little Finger a River Flows:’
Yannis Ritsos’s Response to Dictatorship (1967-1970)
A lecture by
Dr. John Kittmer, former British ambassador to Greece
in celebration of National Poetry Month.
April 22, 2023
10:00 AM Los Angeles/8:00 PM Athens
View a recording of this talk here.
Opening remarks by Her Excellency
Ambassador of Greece to the United States
Exclusive poetry reading by renowned Greek actor
Stelios Mainas (Tetarti 04:45, Mystikes Diadromes, The Island)
In the first days of the Greek military dictatorship of 1967-1974, Yannis Ritsos was imprisoned without trial: he was held initially in internment camps on the islands of Gyaros and Leros, and then under house arrest at the family home in Karlovasi on Samos. The period of his confinement was lifted only in November 1970. During much of this period, he was not only confined and harassed by the authorities, but he was also very unwell. Despite this, he managed to write and to maintain, for the most part, an astonishing rate of productivity, producing nine collections of short poems and several long poems in different forms. In this talk, we will look at Ritsos’ life and work during these years of confinement, examining his poetic response – in short and long poems alike – to the conditions in which he was held, the psychological pressures under which he was placed, and the wider abuses of the military dictatorship. We shall consider the extent to which poetry offered Ritsos some sort of solution to the challenges he faced.
John Kittmer is a former British ambassador to Greece and is the chair of The Anglo-Hellenic League. He has degrees in classics and modern Greek, and wrote a prize-winning Ph.D. thesis on Yannis Ritsos. He is working on several publication projects in connection with Ritsos. His recent collaboration with the poet David Harsent on the poetry Ritsos wrote in the early years of the Colonels’ dictatorship will be published at the end of March (David Harsent, A Broken Man in Flower: Versions of Yannis Ritsos, introduction by John Kittmer [Hexham: Bloodaxe Books, 2023]).
The event is cosponsored by the Embassy of Greece in the United States.
This program is supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).