A tribute to Yiannis Ritsos at New Benaki

«Yiannis Ritsos, Poet and Citizen,» an international conference and exhibition, opened yesterday at the Benaki Museum’s New Wing. One of Greece’s best-loved poets, Ritsos also spent a lifetime committed to leftist ideals, a stance for which he paid with exile and imprisonment. But as Dimitris Arvanitakis, who co-curated the exhibition with Liana Tsopanoglou, told journalists Tuesday, «Exile is the mother of poetry; he left us richer.» In addition to the poetry, Ritsos’s legacy includes works of art – pieces of driftwood he decorated and stones he painted, some of which are on display in the exhibition. Also on show is a wealth of material from the poet’s personal archive, which belongs to the Benaki Museum: manuscripts in his superb calligraphy, first editions and translations of his work, photographs, personal items and artworks by other artists inspired by Ritsos. Scholars from Greece and abroad have gathered to explore the many facets of Ritsos’s life and work – his relation to antiquity and to his own era, his influence on the next generation of poets, modernism and the Cyprus issue in his work, his poetics, his relation to the world and personal testimony by people who knew him. The film «Yiannis Ritsos: Autobiography» from the Giorgos and Iro Sgouraki Archive will be shown at intervals for the duration of the conference. Actors Vassilis Papavassileiou and Mania Papadimitriou will read poems by Ritsos and the conference ends Saturday with a 9 p.m. concert, during which Maria Farandouri will sing poems by Ritsos set to music by Greek composers and Aleka Paizi will read his poems. The conference and exhibition are held under the aegis of the Culture Ministry and organized by the Benaki Museum. At the Benaki Museum New Wing (138 Pireos, tel 210.345.3111) until October 30.