Cyprus and Its People: Nation, Identity, and Experience in an Unimaginable Community, 1955-1997

By Vangelis Calotychos | Go to book overview

12 Three Generations, Three Identities, Three "Patriae" Within Twentieth-Century Cypriot Poetry

Mehmet Yashin


"Cypriot Poetry"

Definitions of a nation's poetry, and the ways it comes to be constructed, are always controversial and speculative, particularly in multilingual, multicultural countries which, according to the dictates of nationalism, are supposed to be homogeneous ( Brennan 1990:45-55). Poetry in English is typically subdivided into different national categories: British, American, Nigerian, Irish, Australian, Jamaican; while the poetry of ex-Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, India, and Canada is written in more than one language and yet is officially accepted as a single national unit. It is obvious that the terms and distinctions of such definition depend on the politics and ideology of each state.

In the twentieth century, Cypriot poetry has customarily been called "the Greek poetry of Cyprus" by Greek-Cypriot authorities, which identify themselves as the Greeks of Cyprus. Even after the foundation of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960, this terminology was maintained by most Greek Cypriot literary authorities and figures. The events of 1974 completely transformed the definition of the "Greek poetry of Cyprus" since the Republic of Cyprus needed to be more independent in order to protect its own economic and political interests. Hence, the poetry of the island was renamed by Cypriot Greek literary authorities as "Cypriot Poetry," and this category includes only poets writing in Greek who refer to Hellenic literary traditions and who appear as outsiders, or "minor" to metropolitan Athens. Almost all Greek critics, writers and poets of Cyprus,1 official or

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