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Poetry Marathon at NKUA, as part of its educational, cultural, and artistic actions, co-organized with the Municipality of Athens

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The ‘Poetry Marathon’, co-organized by our University and the Municipality of Athens at the Propylaea of NKUA on World Poetry Day, Thursday, 21 March 2024, was a great success.

For twelve hours (10:00-22:00), representative works from the inexhaustible treasure of the Greek and international poetic traditions were being recited in a continuous sequence by students, faculty members, and administrative officers of NKUA, while the participation—in some cases spontaneous—of the inhabitants of our city was also remarkable.

This action marks the very beginning of a series of educational, cultural, and artistic events called ‘NKUA in the City’, which our University organizes in collaboration with the Municipality of Athens to share and disseminate the academic knowledge and research experiences of the NKUA’s faculty members to the city that houses the Institution.

In the heart of Athens and our University, at the Propylaea of NKUA, this marathon recitation of poems contributed greatly to highlighting the multifaceted testimony of poetry through the exaltation of the experience of listening to it in the open air, beyond the mental schemas and formal conventions, while also adding fine sounds and multilingual voices to the turbulence and monotony of life in our city.

As part of the same action, a musical tribute to the poetry of Odysseas Elytis took place in the Great Hall of NKUA (19:00-20:00); classical music for piano (compositions by Mozart, Debussy, Ravel, Bach, Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Kouroupos, Papastephanou), masterfully performed by Alexandra Papastephanou, mingled with the lyricism of our Nobel-winning poet’s works, recited by Ioulita Iliopoulou in front of a large audience.

During the event, the Rector of NKUA, Professor Gerasimos Siasos, and the Mayor of Athens, Mr Haris Doukas, recited poems by Kostis Palamas (‘To the Teacher’) and Giorgos Seferis (‘An Old Man on the River Bank’) respectively. Following the occasion and the reading of poems, the Mayor took a guided tour of the Old Senate Hall, and then, together with the Rector, heard poetry from members of the University community and other individuals.

Many people of every professional background, age, and nationality, including the poets, Messrs and Mses Eleni Arapi, Giorgos Veis, Haris Vlavianos, Giannis Doukas, Ioanna Karamali, Dimitris Kosmopoulos, Dimitris Baltas, Chrysa Nikolaki, Giannis Xesternos, Asimina Xirogianni, Athina Papadaki, Eleni Tzatzimaki, Antonis Fostieris, Mary Chapsa, Thanasis Chatzopoulos, et al., honoured the ‘Poetry Marathon’ with their presence and recited poems.

Present at the event were, among others, the members of the NKUA’s Administration Council, Professors Spyros Vlachopoulos and Athanasia Smirniotou, the Vice-Rector for Administrative Affairs and Student Welfare, Professor Efstathios Efstathopoulos, the Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs, International Relations, and Extroversion, Professor Sophia Papaioannou, the Dean of the School of Health Sciences, Professor Emmanouil Pikoulis, and the Dean of the School of Philosophy, Professor Dimitrios Drosos.

The responsibility for the organization and running of the ‘Poetry Marathon’ was divided between a team of faculty members at NKUA (consisting of Messrs and Mses Evripidis Garantoudis, Mary Dimaki-Zora, Stefanos Kaklamanis, Georgia Kalogirou, Kirki Kefalea, Dora Menti, Maria Papadima, Clio Fanouraki, and Achilleas Chaldaeakes), and a group of twenty undergraduate and postgraduate students at the same Institution.

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The Rector of NKUA, Professor Gerasimos Siasos, addressed the event with the following words:

‘On behalf of the Rectorial Authorities of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, I greet with joy today’s entirely successful marathon on the occasion of World Poetry Day.

This “Poetry Marathon” is, in reality, the start of a series of educational, cultural, and artistic events called “NKUA in the City”, which our University co-organizes with the Municipality of Athens.

The collaboration between NKUA and the Municipality of Athens demonstrates both sides’ creative attitude of extroversion and our Institution’s long-standing relationship with the city of Athens.

Our University, as an integral part of this city, opens its doors to everyone—i.e., the members of our academic community and the general public alike—and brings to the forefront of attention the research interests of its people, thus strengthening its links to society.

Today, let us honour the great poets of the past—and all contemporary poets who continue to create and inspire—and celebrate the occasion by discovering new poems or sharing favourite verses.

Along with my personal thanks to the Mayor of Athens, Mr Haris Doukas, for his decisive contribution to the realization of this action, I would like to congratulate Mr Achilleas Chaldaeakes, a Professor at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and member of its Administration Council, on undertaking initiatives such as the “Poetry Marathon”, which promote the “openness” of our Institution and creatively transform our city’s cultural landscape.

At this point, I would like to share a poem by our national poet, Kostis Palamas, who served as our University’s Secretary General for 30 years and whose words continue to inspire us with the duty to work incessantly and tirelessly towards a broad and open education for all!

“To the Teacher”*

Chisel, again, teacher, souls!

And whatever is still left in your life,

Don’t deny it! Sacrifice it to your last breath! Build the palace, wise teacher!

And if some strength in your body remains, Don’t get tired! Your soul is made of steel.

Lay now deeper foundations,

So that war cannot destroy them.

Mine deeply. So what if many have forgotten you? Sometime they too will remember

The burdens that you bear like Atlas on your shoulders, Patience! Keep building, wise one, societys palace

This “Society’s Palace”, the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, has led the way for two centuries now in the education of all the Athenians, of all the Greeks.’

*Translated by Dr Peter Nanopoulos in Voices of Hellenism, Volume I, Number II)

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