What I fear most is becoming a ‘poet’ – Katerina Gogou (GR)- Janet Lees (UK)
Filmmaker: Janet Lees
Poet: Katerina Gogou
Translator: G. Chalkiadakis
For me this poem resounds with the psychological distress Katerina experienced as a result of experiencing and bearing witness to collective trauma. Despair and loneliness hover over every line, but there is also a core of steel in the shape of her unwavering conviction and commitment to the cause and to her people. To bring this great poem to life as a poetry film, I drew on my own urban images and footage. In animating the stills, I used the recurring motif of fire and smoke to indicate rebellion and oppression/passion and despair. I worked with the composer/musician Tromlhie to bring out the poem’s emotional journey in musical form and to complement the poem’s slow build – layer upon layer of the fear of ‘becoming “a poet”’.
Janet Lees is an artist, poet and poetry filmmaker working primarily with photography, collage and film. Her film-based works have been selected for many different international festivals and screenings, including the International Videopoetry Festival, the Zebra Poetry Film Festival and the Aesthetica Art Prize. Her poetry has been published in a wide range of journals and anthologies, and her art photography has featured in solo and group exhibitions around the world.
Tromlhie is bassist and composer Martyn Cain, who has been a performer and songwriter since 2001. As Tromlhie, he has been writing ambient compositions since 2016. Working with Janet Lees, he created the piece ‘Fóvos’ especially for ‘What I fear most is becoming “a poet”’. With influences including minimalism, drone and electronica, the dark, textured atmospheres in his music reflect the celtic landscape of the Isle of Man where he is based. ‘Tromlhie’ is Manx Gaelic for ‘nightmares’.
Katerina Gogou (1949-1993) was Greece’s greatest modern anarchist poetess. Her poems have become synonymous with the radical culture of Greece and with Exarcheia, the Athens neighbourhood known as the anarchist quarter. Born into the Nazi occupation of Greece, she lived through the years of far right military junta oppression and the country’s resurgent anarchist movement in the 1980s. An activist herself, she became a prophet of the movement and her poems anthems for it. She died of an overdose on 3 October 1993.
In her poem ‘What I fear most is becoming “a poet”, Katerina Gogou reflects on her greatest fear – not of the violent oppression she and her people were routinely subjected to, but of falling into the role of state-approved poet, sleepwalking into collusion with the system she fought so hard against.
What I fear most is becoming “a poet”
What I fear most
is becoming “a poet”…
Locking myself in the room
gazing at the sea
I fear that the stitches over my veins might heal
and, instead of having blur memories about TV news,
I take to scribbling papers and selling “my views”…
I fear that those who stepped over us might accept me
so that they can use me.
I fear that my screams might become a murmur
so that to serve putting my people to sleep.
I fear that I might learn to use meter and rhythm
and thus I will be trapped within them
longing for my verses to become popular songs.
I fear that I might buy binoculars in order to bring closer
the sabotage actions in which I won’t be participating.
I fear getting tired – an easy prey for priests and academics –
and so turn into a “sissy”…
They have their ways …
They can utilize the routine in which you get used to,
they have turned us into dogs:
they see to us being ashamed for not working…
they see to us being proud for being unemployed…
That’s how it is.
Keen psychiatrists and lousy policemen
are waiting for us in the corner.
I am afraid of him…
My mind walks past him as well…
Those bastards…they are to blame…
I cannot -fuck it- even finish this writing…
Maybe…eh?…maybe some other day.