– Constantinos, what is your poetry about?
– It is about me and my multiple selfs. And it is about my past. Writing is a pretty selfish process you know.
– I understand. Sounds nice. In other words you are schizophrenically having sex with yourself.
– (Laughing) Yes, you can say so.
Constantinos is a young writer located in Cyprus, Limassol, that is a city at the southern coast in the Greek part of Cyprus, where he lives as an author, an activist for human rights and as an educator. As we talked on skype rather spontaneously we had a quick conversation touching his writings, his performances, his poems having been turned into music. The thing about skype conversations is – always – that you get a peak into someone elses home, his furniture, the color of the walls and the kind of coffee cups they are using. I made acquaintance with Constantinos dog for instance.
Do not get me wrong, I like dogs. And I slide in: the conversation hid some very beautiful moments.
Well, actually that suits him pretty well. The lyrical I´s are to an refreshing extent loners and the poems can be read as highly (self)erotic in that way that you need disguises that cover the secret for erotic projection. Looking at his poetry there are a lot of words concerning clothes, clothing and dressing like the first lines of a poem: During the night / We two / Shed our guilt / And throw it creased on the floor. In the night scene there are apparently these two people intimate with each other, they even go naked in the night light. But still the poem ends in a confession that says To go about on the streets / Wearing my self / And nothing else. A personal moment that applies to many peoples’ experience.
„I draw a lot from my past, constantly reflecting on things that already happened. Poetry is a way to understand myself.“ He digs up his own self and past to fully understand the thing called “self”. But still, how does Constantinos succeed in translating the very personal into an unpersonalized truth about existence?
Well, there are several layers – me, myself and I – to Constantinos poetry, and I mean it literally: the layers of selfhood. Constantinos does not write about himself but about his European I reflecting on himself hence the universality. The self of the lyrical I (me) is very much distanced from its owner (myself), can be put away, can be stored away (from the I), can be folded and then the self returns like something having strolled around beforehand. The lyrical I watches it coming by, its new disguises from a knowing and curious position, the I even wants to dress up with its own self. You know, my life is a story I cannot avoid. This being on the surface of every poem becomes a universal truth: Because daily life consists in many different performances and is sure itself one as well.
Constantinos is pretty lively concerning his poetry. He also does performances together with an actress and is involved in the local group of the “Theater of the Oppressed”, a form of Theater which´ originator August Boal intended to raise an awareness for political mechanics and ones own standing within it.
Asking for what he acknowledges as a “literary activist” it becomes clear to me that he strongly divides his social and political engagement from his poetry. “My poetry is about an ideal self and the self that I left behind.” According to Constantinos himself his poems deal a lot with war, disasters and the repetition of human failures. But he wants to see it from above, from a viewpoint that is not immediately invovled in the action. “I am more connected to the universal facet of myself”, he goes on.
“What is about the future then?” I ask him. “The future? I dont want to sound pessimistic, you know. My poetry is a little bit pessimistic but that is a balance for me as a person. It is not that I fake that self or my partying self.” Just listen:
Some nights before I fall asleep
because I listen to it through your eyes.
Constantinos Papageorgiou (1981) published his first poetry book in 2012 («Οι Πέντε Εποχές», Μελάνι) for which he was shortlisted by the “Hellenic Authors Society” for Best Newcomer Poet 2012. In 2008 he was awarded 1st Poetry Prize by the Cyprus Writers’ Union in its competition for young writers. He has participated in the photo exhibition “What’s the point of poetry?” during Berlin Poetry Festival 2013 and in several other literature festivals and events. He has studied Education (Elementary, Special and Non-Formal) and works as a teacher and adults trainer. He is also a practitioner of “Theatre of the Oppressed”.
photo: courtesy of Poesie Festival Berlin and Constantinos Papageorgiou