Sunday, June 21, 2009

A study on the poetry of Nickos M. Batsikanis (Greece)

The poetry of Nickos M. Batsikanis (Greece)

Nickos M. Batsikanis is a poet from Greece who writes in Modern Greek. His poetry is highly lyrical and blends perfectly with the use of a non complex and very concise language, beautiful imagery and depth of thought and reflections, while in the majority of cases the poet describes simple and daily happenings.

Concision, and nature as a source for imagery

In Untitled, that which at the beginning seems to be a poem of love (“Tonight we’re here again/ you and me”), develops in an effective anticlimax, “my dear silence”. This leads to Lost Loves, where again Batsikanis reveals his innermost feelings through images that are taken directly from the world of nature (the microcosm: “raindrops”, “snowflakes”, “foliages of the trees”; and the macrocosm: “lightning”, “horizon”, “stars”, “galaxy” and “sun”).

As already noted, concision is the key word for some of Batsikanis’ poems. In Sea shell the question mark and the two exclamation marks in just three lines express strong feelings which perhaps have to do with lost love, memory and disillusion. Again, the importance of nature in order to express the innermost human feelings. Concision is also present in Sensational Love, where the difference between love and just sex is expressed very effectively in just two lines:

Sensational love needs a soul,
The Body isn’t enough.

Realism/idealism, pain and the poet

The poet is the person who not only feels but is also forced to write or express his pain in verse. Thus, in Words like Poison Batsikanis writes about the negative strength of words which “are like arrows/ - they don’t return back…/ especially the poisonous ones…” In Ticket, Batsikanis writes that in this world “the ticket is expensive, to travel in dream” and that “The price is heavy for a few drops of happiness…” The final “Where (why)?” express the fact that the poet is also one who is searching for something that is ideal, and thus impossible to find. However, here Batsikanis proves to us that the poet is not only a dreamer or idealist, but paradoxically also one who is a realist and down to earth.

Realism is felt also in Uncontrolled Course which is about the fact that all humanity’s final destination is death (the classical “Hades”). In an almost nonchalant and natural (resigned?) tone Batsikanis asks humanity to take things slowly while we’re here on earth, fully conscious that death is inevitable. There is a subtle sense of irony between the lines. Even Entreaty is about death, but here it does not mean the end, but the beginning of something else for the poet-believer. Here Batsikanis addresses directly the Lord (Jesus Christ), and is fully aware that some day or other “the great hour comes/ of our mystic supper.”

As a realist and also as the voice of consciousness of mankind Batsikanis writes about honesty in the poem with the same title: we read that honesty is,

An upslope, hard trodden
very deserted path and road…

The poet thus is the observer of humanity’s good or bad actions. He chooses honesty and the hard way, even though he knows that he is one in a million. In Threat, Batsikanis writes about mankind’s serious threat: man knowing no limits. Faced with such a threat the Greek poet knows that remaining silent is a crime. Thus, in A Society Responsibility he writes:

We’ll all be there, first me, then you and then the others.
In the court room of consciousness, for complicity.
They, accused as moral perpetrators, some as doers
and we as accessories and silent accomplices to guilt.

Batsikanis is the one who points his fingers at mankind for its misdoings, but he is also the one who includes himself as part of this treachery.

Greece – Land of the Light is a patriotic poem which expresses Batsikanis’ love for Greece in a time when “The light of Delphi has become expensive in our days. Ideals are lost.” This is another poem-invitation not to abandon ideals, once upheld by Sparta’s king, Leonidas (in 480 B.C.), during the war against the Persian army, and by General John Makrygiannis (in the 19th century) during the war against the Turks.

In A Suffocating Ring Batsikanis is seen as the upholder of ideals such as freedom and righteousness. This is a poem of strength reminding people like Batsikanis himself that freedom is a state worth fighting for. This poem links with Peace, where Batsikanis writes, “There aren’t winners or losers/ in war”. It’s a short poem which acts as an invitation to quit war, but also as a warning: peace is not an eternal guarantee. One has to work for its achievement, if not we can be among tomorrow’s “little orphans of the traffic lights…”

Who is the poet?

On the other hand, in Flight, Batsikanis reminds us that the poet is the one who finds “the traces of escape/ in the boundaries of chaos”, and much more. Words like “Flight”, “wings”, “wind”, “angels”, “sky”, “moon”, “comets” and “soul” all have to do with the poet’s ability to detach him/herself from all that which is materialistic. Another poem about the poet’s vocation is Choice III, where Batsikanis writes that the poet’s life is one of ideals and values, but this also means lack of freedom, pain and being a slave of reflection, thoughts and guilt. Here, being free means walking “on a road/ empty from dreams…” Surely, this is a poem which reminds us of other poems written by Batsikanis, such as Honesty and Ticket.

Who is the “me” if not the poet himself in Feel Me? He can be found in “the light… the sparkling light” and in “the sound of the wind/ whispering a song/ that will be mine chant”. Absence may be one of Batsikanis’ best poems. Words like “Oblivion”, “empty”, “absence”, “nothing”, “negative film” and “robbed dreams” form the skeleton of this poem. Can all this be read according to the existentialistic way of seeing and understanding life around us? Again we see the “I” and “you” relationship, where the “you” may easily be identified with the poet’s alter-ego.


Reading the poems of Nickos M. Batsikanis is a pleasure, but also an internal voyage in the poet’s mind and soul (thus in mankind’s mind and soul) and a peaceful invitation to reflect on universal aspects such as love, solitude, peace and war, life and death, human relationships and much more. It would be an excellent idea for Batsikanis to have more of his poems in Modern Greek translated into English for the general poetry lovers to read and understand.

Patrick Sammut (Malta, June 2009)
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