Tsiattista poetic duelling
Inscribed in 2011 (6.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
The lively, impromptu oral poetry known as Tsiattista is often performed to the accompaniment of violin or lute in ‘jousts’ in which one poet-singer attempts to outdo another with clever verses made up of rhyming couplets. It has long been a popular component of wedding feasts, fairs and other public celebrations, where eager crowds encourage poets to perform. The most common metrical form is the iambic fifteen-syllable verse in a rhyming couplet, although a poet may use eight-syllable, six-syllable or even nine-syllable verses. Successful tsiattistaes (poet-singers) exhibit ready wit, deep familiarity with poetic and musical traditions, a rich vocabulary and an active imagination. They have often been men of modest means and limited education who transmit their works only orally; these days, the poets are mostly old men but talented female poets have recently started performing. Poets must be well-versed in the Greek Cypriot dialect, possess adequate knowledge of the popular poetry of Cyprus and the ability to retrieve existing, well-known Tsiattista and, above all, must be able to improvise a new couplet on a specific theme within very strict time constraints and be able to respond to his or her opponent.