Michalis Katsaros - Poet
THE POET OF DEFEAT AND DIGNITY
"Do not neglect / Take water with you / Our future has a lot of drought".
Michalis Katsaros was a Greek poet, a representative of the first post-war generation of Greek literature. He was also involved in painting and signed his paintings under the name Michel. He was born in 1919 in Kyparissia and published his first poem in 1929, in the magazine "Diaplasis ton Paidon", at the age of, just, 10.
In 1937, at the age of 17, he went to Athens with his family where he joined the Hellenic Air Force. Sometime later, he went to Thessaloniki where he was prevented by the war and the Italian invasion of 1940. He returned to the Air Force after the departure of the Germans on October 12th, 1944. During the German Occupation he was brutally tortured when German collaborators handed him over to the Gestapo and was kept in the "Hatzikostas" prison. During the December Events (Dec. 1944 - Jan. 1945), he developed close, friendly relations with Mikis Theodorakis.
He collaborated with the magazines "Neos Kosmos", "Foundation", "Poetic Art", "The New Greek", "Athenian Letters" and "Target". He then published "Sistema", a magazine in which he published primarily his own texts. In August 1945, he published the poem "Hiroshima" in "Rizospastis". On February 22nd, 1946 he published his poem, "The Barberini ship", while on November 15th of the same year he published the poem "Vgenio". In 1949, he published his first poetry collection entitled "Messolonghi". The publication of the collection was funded by his friend, Maria Polydouri's brother, Vangelis Polydouris, who served with Michalis Katsaros in the Air Force. In 1953, he became widely known for his collection of poems entitled "Against the Sadducees", which was, once again, financed by Vangelis Polydouris. At the same time, Mikis Theodorakis began to compose music for the poems of his collection. In 1956, the collection "Plateau" was released, followed by other collections of poems, such as "Book" (1975), "Names" (1980), "3M + 3M = 6M" (1981), "Nine to seven" ( 1997) etc.
Michalis Katsaros worked as a journalist in newspapers and radio stations. He published a total of 14 collections of poetry, 5 philosophical texts, as well as the novel "The Collections of Monochra". In 1983, he was awarded the Poetry Prize. His poems have been translated into many languages and have been set to music by many Greek composers, such as Mikis Theodorakis, Giannis Markopoulos, Argyris Kounadis and others. His poems are allegorical and his historical references refer to modern situations. He was married to painter Koula Maragopoulou and his son is the director Stathis Katsaros. He died in Athens on November 21st, 1998, at the age of 79. According to Linos Politis, he was "a special and solid poetic presence, with an emphasized element of controversy".
In Theodore Angelopoulos' film "Troupe" there is a scene towards the end of the film where two members of the disbanded troupe visit a friend after his release from prison to suggest that they rebuild the troupe. Then the poet-former member of the troupe responds by reciting lyrics written by Michalis Katsaros, slightly changed.