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Ntinos Christianopoulos: Greece’s Rebel Poet

September 13th, 2012

CULTUREPEOPLE

By Nikolaos Dervisis, for GOTH

Passionate, enigmatic and often provocative, Ntinos Christianopoulos, a poet, writer and essayist, wrote about the darkest aspects of love and talked openly about homosexuality as early as the 1950s.

Born in Thessaloniki in 1931 as Konstantinos Dimitriadis, he was raised by a Christian family and even went to catechism (Sunday School), where he discovered his homosexuality, which he never hid in the closet. He was expelled from catechism after publishing poetry without submitting to the censorship of his priest teachers at that time. One of these poems was about saints who fell in love before being beheaded, which at the time was considered scandalous. Another poem referenced the Old Testament figure Onan (Greek: ‘Aunan’), also seen as risqué since the Greek word for masturbation is ‘aunanismos’.

Christianopoulos studied philosophy in the Aristoteleio University of Thessaloniki and worked as a bookkeeper in the late 50s, when he started releasing his writings. In his poetry he used forbidden words such as ‘kavla’, (meaning ‘boner’)  and is credited with exonerating and highlighting the poetic status of such ‘innocent’ bad words. He admits he was highly influenced by Cavafy and Elliott, but he developed his own style with the collection of poems “The Body and the Blight”, where he wrote really short poems, imprinting the meaning of his themes in a few words.

Christianopoulos never (and I mean never) accepted a single award. Even during the Greek military junta of the 70s, when he was awarded for his novella “Rebetes of the Wind”, he denied this award and infuriated the dictators who then ordered for his arrest. He has written countless poems, novellas, essays, children’s stories, even songs. He still lives in Thessaloniki, a city to which he is unwaveringly loyal, and unlike many poets, he rarely leaves his city (he counts just 50 trips to Athens in his lifetime) and hates traveling.

Here’s an interview Christianopoulos gave to Greek television series, “Sta Akra”:

A sampling of work from the rebel poet:


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