Writers-Poets of and around the World You are reporting on its condition. In Athens Panorama International Literature Festival (PILF) is promoting cultural exchange and enabling writers to expand their horizons and better understand the world. This is indeed a celebration! It engaged global citizens from 78 countries and many powerful pens that promoted humanitarian values, celebrated life itself and existence with gratitude on earth. It brought together a collection of fascinating words; a grand and marvelous event spread over the month of January, 2023. It illuminated the past in journeys to the future and provided different ways to see the world with coalescing unity and steadfast soldarity. It was dedicated to spreading the mighty values of humanity through the medium of literature. It culminated in an inspiring pledge to life as one in nature, recognizing that its beauty resides in caring and calls for writers of the world to stand together in harmony and for all humanity. Poetry is imagination par excellence as when sailing to Byzantium where Yeats never set foot but spoke of what is past, or passing, or to come. Blessed moments pretending they will be around forever, soon gone, without a fare-thee-well, says the late Charles Simic.
The Writers Capital Foundation is now celebrating its 6th Anniversary proud to announce a new venture to its educational mission, namely, its first ever department, an International Centre for Foreign Languages and Literature (ICFL) in Greece. While its ultimate aim is to set up a virtual university for integrative studies, it believes that the establishment of the International Centre for Foreign Languages and Literature will mark the very beginning of a continuing journey. The virtual university will provide opportunity to those of the beaten track and with technological flexibility and convenience; the International Centre for Foreign Languages and Literature, ICFL physically located in Athens, Greece offers worldwide virtual experience referenced to the Greek language, which has a history of 4000 continuous years. It emerged close to the end of the Bronze Age when the still unknown Sea People caused trade to collapse to precipitate the Dark Age and large scale migration. Natural disasters, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions as well as drought and famine augmented by a growing population contributed to the chaos. Out of the darkness Hesiod and Thales came and Homer’s writings were assembled.
Who are today’s Sea People? Ours is a time of mass migration, pollution and climate change, which will bring more frequent volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. Will we be replaced by AI?
With the Greek language Homer described the first epidemic in history outside of the walls of Troy and the destruction of the city. The Greek language became a vehicle to convey and transmit scientific theories, philosophical views and literary texts. The Greek language has played an eminent role in the evolving European culture while the New Testament was written in it. The words of Elytis as he received the Nobel Prize in Literature are moving: the Greek language which is the oldest and richest language in the world... Don't forget our homeland, and above all, our language. You should be proud, we should all be proud, we and our children of our language... We are the only ones in the whole of Europe who have the privilege of calling the sky "sky" and the sea "sea" as they were called by Homer and Plato two and a half thousand years ago. Language is not only a means of communication; it carries the soul of our people, all its history and all its kindness. My language was given Greek, my poor house on the sandy beaches of Homer.
AS Honorary President of the World Philosophical Forum, Athens let me just say that from its inception, 2009 the Forum has been fully aligned with the ideals of UNESCO and, in reciprocity, supported by it. It sees philosophy as a creative force for young people, encouraging of their critical and independent thought as well as to provide a better understanding of the world and a distinctively different means of promoting tolerance and peace. We are talking of philosophy as a bastion against the narrowing of opinions [Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General] and the narrowing of minds. We are talking of philosophy’s poetic journey. Some forceful words of 1928 were crimes against peace and from 1955 we appeal as human beings to human beings: remember your humanity, and forget the rest written in the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, 1955 on nuclear disarmament are a much more relevant guide than ever. The UN then was promoting development, decolonization and disarmament. Later for one fleeting moment it promoted civic education for global citizenship and philosophy for all. Its temporary proponents were Ban Ki Moon and Irena Bokova.
Greece has given much to humanity in health, education, philosophy, and to the evolution of Europe. Prometheus gave fire to man to warm him, Demeter bread to feed him, and Hygiene public health to protect him. Socrates added to philosophy the study of the human soul and society and gave us the concept of world citizenship. It came often through the destruction of war as with its despair never better expressed than in the words of Aeschylus: pain so intense, not forgotten, even in sleep, ... falling from the heart, drop-by drop, until in our despair, against our will, Wisdom comes, through the terrible grace of God. The wisdom in Aeschylus is poetic philosophy and could be inspired by the girl from Tyre, Europa with her wide-eyed gaze that enchanted Zeus and Suleica from Samarkand in Persian poetry.
There is a horrendous list of ruined lives from war, genocide, colonial misadventure, mass violence and state brutality against its own as well as against the other. Philosophy is a peaceful ally of man, a spiritual comfort to men and can help people, the environment and health, today. “Something I fear, each hour is wrong”.
And from Samarkand where Omar Khayyam was seen as an impious poet writing about wine and women and with a philosophy that mocked Islam comes a poetical link to philosophy, passion and geopolitics reimagined today by Maalouf; as Omar Khayyam arrived from Persia, he was recognized by hooligans and denounced as an infidel. Fortunately, THE judge recognized his genius and gave him a small blank book whispering, whenever a verse emerges in your head write it down, they will stay hidden. From it we have a newly imagined and modern legend for the birth of the Rubaiyat. Held by Assassins until their fortress was destroyed, lost and found over the years, passed down. It was finally retrieved from the bottom of the Atlantic having gone down with the Titanic.
In the dangerous chaos of our days, poetry is necessary. Poetry and prose serve to overcome the difficulties of life they are instruments to deal with today’s formidable global challenges, enabling us to travel hopefully even if life deceived, on the day of grief be mild! As you set out for Ithaka hope your road is a long one, for difficult is the way and sharp is the razor’s edge, to arrive at wisdom. And if Ithaka you find poor she has not fooled you for wise you have become, full of experience, and when like her, oh, Saki, you shall pass, Among the Guests Star-scatter'd on the Grass, And in your joyous errand reach the spot, Where I made One--turn down an empty Glass!
Your banner While Air supports life, live; while air supports voice, sing; while we can stir up the air, let’s philosophize. Until then write poetry. Poetry according to Nikos Kazanzakis is the salt of the earth that prevents the rot of the world. And remember the words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge No man was ever yet a great poet without being at the same time a profound philosopher.
We know that:
Emergent plans can sap-out remaining drops of hope
As fragile humanity fights to manage and maintain a universal mind.
Can we stop; slow down the undoing of our world?
The burning, flooding and polluting of our souls
Restore our world to glory with hope of splendid green
Blue oceans, red sunsets, rivulets and gently flowing streams
with all men and women equal and all free
We know that:
Youth will go ten thousand miles to find the smiles of Mother Earth.
A mother more, to ease the pain, comfort and console a baby’s cry.
But as rocks melt my dear and seas are running high.
Let’s take our cup of kindness yet for the sake of Auld Lang Syne.
We hope that:
When spring comes round again
Frogs will croak, lambs frisk, birds chirp, foals neigh
Fishermen in boats and lovers in the bay at night
Moonlight kissed trees, sun freckled leaves olive trees in bright light
Olives maturing well, to ooze in shrinking autumn days
And Olive branches will be waved again
When springs come round again next year.
In modern parlance influential, impactful goal oriented phrases and attention-rousing rhymes, nonsense verse, limericks; maybe a special category of pull-back, brink-back. To which I add, while you exist act with reason and philosophically in your activities in and relationships with the world. A poet does just that. So maybe a fest: nonsense verse for attention-grabbing and no-nonsense messaging, nonsense and no-nonsense averse verse fest? You have already chosen fire as the symbol for the 7th Anniversary of the Writers Capital Foundation.
Poetry and philosophy can be of great use to the atomic scientists who have just set the doomsday clock at 90 seconds to midnight; this after a year of nonstop warfare in the Ukraine. After a year of nonstop warfare Russia, the Ukraine and the world are in a worse position than when conflict re-erupted. Division of the world is growing, economic sanctions prove once again poor and often counterintuitive instruments, armies have been destroyed and civilians killed, peoples around the world go hungry, feel cold, COP has opted-out, the nuclear threat has surged and pockets have bulged.
Thinking of the cold my mind turns to Russian winter which brought mighty French and German armies to their knees and now ordinary people in the Ukraine. I also think of Zjvago’s ode to Laura and the haunting song someday my love there will be songs to sing..... While Air supports life, live; while air supports voice, sing; while you can stir up the Air, Philosophize. Wonder and imagination say Socrates and Einstein are a gate way to wisdom but it is never easy. In philosophizing we may send out a smoke signal and by wafting our safety blankets kindle a flame, the fire that warms all men, women, youth, elderly and children to action.
Until then, write poetry. Tell me where you are and I will bring you the poet’s pen and paper.