Events & Culture
The Monochords: Artists and Poets in Dialogue on Yannis Ritsos
To celebrate the launch of the book Monochords, by Greek poet Yannis Ritsos (1909 – 1990) and London based artist and filmmaker Chiara Ambrosio, this is an evening of conversation and readings about Ritsos’ poetry, its significance and continuing resonance with contemporary artists and writers.
Exiled on the island of Samos during the summer of 1979, Greek poet Yannis Ritsos (1909 – 1990) composed a remarkable collection of 336 single-line poems, written at a rate of about ten a day: the Monochords, each line an essential observation of a moment; a personal archive of time past, present and future.
In London in 2020, during a period of Covid confinement, artist and filmmaker Chiara Ambrosio began responding to Ritsos’ words through linocut images: an experiment in entering the space opened by each poem, rendering it in line and shape; a daily ritual that accompanied her along a strange year of exile from life.
This event, chaired by writer and broadcaster Maria Margaronis, will launch the publication of Monochords, a new edition of Ritsos’ seminal poems accompanied by and in dialogue with Ambrosio’s linocut responses. Poets Stephen Watts and Sophie Herxheimer will be in conversation with Ambrosio, discussing the significance of Ritsos’ work for artists and writers today, and the ways in which poetry and visual art interact through a shared language of imagery and space.
A limited edition print by Chiara Ambrosio will be available for sale throughout the exhibition. Please enquire at the Hellenic Centre.
Chiara Ambrosio is a London-based filmmaker and visual artist, working with moving image, photography, text, sound and printed matter to explore the ways in which we remember, articulate and preserve personal and collective histories and a sense of place. Her work pays witness to and portrays that which struggles on the fringes of dominant narratives – communities, landscapes, stories, objects, perceptions, sensibilities – excluded and marginalised for a variety of different reasons but always fundamental to our understanding of what makes us human. Her work has been presented extensively both nationally and internationally at venues including the Whitechapel Gallery, Anthology Film Archives and La Cinémathèque Française.
Maria Margaronis is a writer, translator, and broadcaster whose work engages with unheard voices and untold stories. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including The Nation, The Times Literary Supplement, The London Review of Books, The Guardian, and Grand Street. She produces and presents radio documentaries for the BBC, and divides her time between London and Greece.
Yannis Ritsos was a Greek poet and communist and an active member of the Greek Resistance during World War II. Frequently imprisoned for long periods by right-wing regimes, he is one of Greece’s best-loved poets, known for his lyrics and epic meditations, plays, novels and translations. His sequence of 336 monochords were written in a single month, August 1979, while in exile on the island of Samos. Ritsos died in Athens in 1990.
Sophie Herxheimer is an artist and poet. Her work has been shown at her local allotments, Tate Modern and on a giant mural along the sea-front at Margate. Her collection Velkom to Inklandt (Short Books, 2017) was Poetry Book of the Month in the Observer, and a Sunday Times Book of the Year. Her book 60 Lovers to Make and Do, (Henningham Family Press, 2019) was a TLS Book of the Year. Her artists’ books are in The Bodleian Library and many public collections.
Stephen Watts is a poet and translator born in London in 1952, where he still lives and works. He has published seven books of poetry, including Republic of Dogs / Republic of Birds (Test Centre, 2016; Prototype, 2020), Ancient Sunlight (Enitharmon, 2014), and Gramsci & Caruso, a selected poems with Italian translation by Cristina Viti (MilleGru, Monza, 2014). The Republics, a 70-minute b/w 16mm film directed by Huw Wahl, premiered in 2020. Journeys Across Breath: Collected Poems 1975–2005 was published by Prototype in October 2022.