Any town would be proud to have given birth to such a great man, such a wonderful poet as Yiannis Ritsos. Monemvasia, which Ritsos so loved and praised in his work, honours him every year in a festival aimed at highlighting the many facets of his personality and to acquaint younger generations with the universal messages reflected in his life and work.

“Remember me – he said
I walked thousands of kilometres
Without bread, without water,
On stones and thorns,
To bring you bread and water and roses….
remember me.”

Through his talent and skill, Yiannis Ritsos enriched his poetry with timeless values and ideals.

Standing at the helm of what he himself, at his 75th birthday celebrations in Chrysafitissa square, called the “stone ship”, the medieval fortress, he travelled the world in the name of peace. Journeying to “ports never seen before”, he used his poetry to take to the people of the world his message of democracy, freedom and social justice, but above all, of world peace and the coexistence of peoples.

Deeply ecumenical, but equally Greek, he clothed the people, landscapes and symbols of his poems with the beauty of Greece as it has evolved since Homer’s time.

Ritsos’ poetry is art dedicated to the service of humanity’s highest and most progressive ideals.

‘Items of identification’

The date of my birth is probably 903 B.C. – but also quite probably 903 A.D. I studied the history of the past and the future at the contemporary School of Struggle. My profession: words piled on words – what could I do? Ragpicker they called me. And it was true. I collected a whole heap of ostrich feathers from the hats of the subterrestrial Maiden, buttons from military duffel coats, and the tobacco pouch of the Great Blind Man. At the Registry these last years they gave me the most improbable date of my birth: 1909.
I adjusted to this and the stayed put. Finally in 3909 I sat on my stool to smoke a cigarette. Then the flatterers arrived; they bowed down before me and on my fingers placed glittering rings. But these ignoramuses did not knowI had myself made them from their empty cartridges left on the hills.
Because of this exactly, because of their lovely ignorance, I rewarded them richly with genuine precious stones and double doses of flattery. At my rate, the only certain item is the place of my birth: Akra Minoa.
Karlovasi, 18.8.75


Rock. Nothing else. The wild fig tree and the ironstone.
An armed sea. No room at all for genuflection. Outside the Elkomenos Church gate a crimson in the black. The old women with their cauldrons bleaching the longest woven cloth in history suspend on rings from the forty-four Byzantine arcades. The sun a merciless friend with his lance on the walls opposite and death disinherited within this vast illumination where the dead interrupt their sleep now and then with cannon fire and rusty lampposts, going up and down on step after step carved in the rock. They strike their tinder boxes against the edge of their palms until the sparks fly. I – he said – will climb higher, above the soft continuation, stepping on the dome of the large submarine church with its lit candelabra. I with the blue bone, the red wing and the pure white teeth.
Monovasia 28.9.74