Passwords. That is the only way I can define the words of this poem, although they apply to something quite different from a child's game or someone on guard duty. Passwords: for passing where and especially for coming from where? Coming out of the impasse, the impasse formed by this finite and closed world, by all places where need, privation, deficiency threaten to imprison you. This poem is first and foremost marked by the anguish of aporeia, with its ancient meaning of absence of a way out, of a passageway, the anguish of the impasse. Aporeia, aporos are among the oldest Greek words, and aporos already appears in one of the fragments of a text by Heraclitus. Aporeia is the impossibility of going any further, of advancing, of passing, of crossing over a boundary. It is a physical and moral deficiency, the indigence of the being in the literal and figurative sense of the word, it is the depletion of body and soul, uncertainty, disarray, disorientation. A being in a state of aporeia cannot change, has no future, is a prisoner of its own present as of a labyrinth which is an "aporic" space.
One strives to deliver oneself from anguish and the aporeia of being, but to attain what, to go where? Toward a place and a time that none except clairvoyant poets has ever been able to know and even less able to approach, that other time, that other space that begins beyond the boundaries of all finitude, of the imprisonment of the being in a state of aporeia, a place and time that are accessible only to those rare beings who, like Empedocles, have felt their tears well up in the face of asynithea cboro, the strange, unknown country, unfamiliar space.
Then, if one is a philosopher or a visionary poet, one can catch a glimpse of this unnamed country, this indescribable place; in the very depths of one's being mystika perasmata, secret and mystic passages, open up (the word mystika has two meanings in Greek), leading toward that space that is seldom visited except by those who act as guardians and guides to the poem, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Plato, St. John (the St. John of the Apocalypse), the Sybil, all of them bearers of words and initiation.
For Maria Lampadaridou, coming up against these words and the approach to another kind of world resulted from an intimate and painful tribulation, the loss of a child who departed at a young age for the world above, a star the memory of which (even more than memory in general, and the instant, invisible presence) continued to inhabit her, to illuminate the paths of exorcism of this poem.
What, then, are these passwords, these words which take on a sense of journey and of urgency, these words, some of which date back more than three thousand years, pronounced already by pre-Socratic mouths, then sung by Byzantine mystics, these words that open the door to another life, these sentinels which bring down to our century, like the glow of the stars, the light of a truth that comes from the depths of time? They are aima (blood), oneiro (dream), mnimi (memory), thanatos (death), dakri (tear), abyssos (abyss), phos (light), lampsi (glow), rodo (pink - could be a rose), chriusmos (oracle), rogmi (fissure), pligi (wound). Words which stake out the inner and secret paths opening the way to the other space, the unapproached, the undemonstrable, even the forbidden, the way of the adyton, of being, that place which, in ancient sanctuaries, was totally forbidden to the uninitiated. Therefore we will see rising up in this poem, like a litany, many ymbolic and "apotropaic" images, like the wandering soul that finds a way out of the impasse only because of this blood of the wound, this fissure of the soul, this noise of the abyss which irrigates it and inhabits it.
A mystical poem, then, one of initiation, a poem about the pain of the body, of the heart, of the whole being reached out toward this desire to abolish time and death, to touch this previously untouchable, undemonstrable world that begins just beyond man, just on this side of the angels, with these words and these incantations which have the power to make the abyss blossom. Which also have the power, ultimately, to restore the image - out there or above - of the lost child who has become a "tender star." Rarely will a poem have gathered together and assembled in throbbing written expression so many messages and signs of three thousand years of Greek language. For it is also an astonishing and living pilgrimage to the sanctuaries of language, from the ancient propylaia and adyton to the iconostase of the Byzantine chapels. A pilgrimage with guideposts of familiar silhouettes such as those of Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, St. John, of the unknown author of the Acathistos Ymnos, the most beautiful poem in the Byzantine liturgy, of the contemporary poet Elytis.But these guideposts are never either references or quotations. The chosen fragments are inserted, I would even say included in the poem, and the ancient Greek words join together with the contemporary ones. Yes, lively portions of Heraclitus, of Plato or of the Apocalypse, like the rising up of brand-new images, are these words which helped the author to "dilate her soul," to "demagnetize the silence" in order to be able to cross over the abysses which separate her from the adyton of the world.
Two words, before I conclude, about the author of this poetry of light. I have met Maria Lampadaridou for thirty years, since she was a student in Paris, at the Sorbonne, where she attended theatrical studies. In Greece, she is known as a playwright and her works have been repeatedly staged in private and public venues. She is also the author of a fine essay on the work of Samuel Beckett - whom she has met many times -, an essay that has not been translated into French, titled "The experience of existential grief" and another on the poet Odysseus Elytis. She has also published other poetry collections, novels and poetic prose, including the autobiography of her childhood (born on the island of Lemnos), written by dreams of that time.
But Maria Lampadaridou is above all a poet, essentially, existentially a poet. Poetry is not a writing game for her, it is a way of being, of breathing, of living. "I write because it is my only way to exist," she says. "I write because I cannot exist any other way. Each of my poems is a fragment wrested from life." With her, poetry becomes an act of resistance, a refusal of contemporary nihilism, a rebellion against the widely proclaimed absurdity of the world. For Maria Lampadaridou, poetry is the "blood of truth." In the present poem, it is even more than that: it is the blood of memory flowing into the words of the poem, which gives it the new strength of a continual Genesis.
Translated from French: Professor Yolanda Astarita Patterson
Published in the volume “A woman of Lemnos”, Guernica Publications 2002
Also published in the magazine of the French Institute of Athens CTL No 24 Feb. 1996