NEW YORK – The Association of Greek American Professional Women (AGAPW) presented “Meet the Author: A retrospective on award winning author Ioanna Karatzaferi,” at the Greek Press Office on May 29. The evening of readings culminated in a dance and musical performance piece inspired by Karatzaferi’s poetry.
After Dimitra Nikolou, the evening’s Emcee, offered an introduction and analysis of the author’s work, Karatzaferi read from My Home is Everywhere.
Karatzaferi’s life and work are rooted in history and people. When she addressed the gathering, she commemorated both the recent passing of Maya Angelou, whose poems she had translated, and the Fall of Constantinople on May 29, 1453.
Referring to the documentary about her life by Yannis Katomeris titled “Ioanna, A Free Woman,” she declared: “I am not free.”
She said “I have hard feelings against some people. How can I forget the Germans” and their brutal occupation of Greece? “I have weaknesses that darken my freedom.”
Elaborating on the age-old conflict between freedom and responsibility, she shifted to the tragic situation in Greece, and offered some self-criticism to counter the natural tendency to blame others: “Perhaps we too are to blame for taking this road to impoverishment?”
Karatzaferi spoke about how difficult is to be fully free amid the challenges and paradoxes of life and noted that society’s restrictions are both political and aesthetic. Nevertheless, she found the artistic life liberating.
Author and publisher Sam Chekwas read excerpts from Karatzaferi’s work and told the guests that she is one of the greatest writers he has ever met.
Natasha Katerinopoulos, performing arts manager and arts activist, read from Furnished Rooms and Ilios Neofotistos, past president of KEP and the Athenian’s Society read a portion of Bazayiazi.
Dr. Spryros Efthimiades, Associate Professor of Physics at Fordham University, read passages from Karatzaferi’s collection of short stories about life and death in the big city as experienced by a young immigrant woman titled: “Nea Yorki – Have a Knife Day.”
Efthimiades praised her lyricism and the power of her descriptions of unforgettable moments and people.
Performance artist Vassilea Terzakis was the creator and lead dancer for the cultural performance and was joined by Nana Simopoulos, Caryn Heilman, Terry Vakirtzolou and Katerinopoulos.
“The piece is based on Ioanna’s poety and combines music with contemporary movement and theatrical components to travel through Ioanna’s poetry and express the concerns, aspirations, and existential quest of ‘A Global Woman,’” according to the program.
The entrance of the four women evoked the mystery and grace of a Greek chorus and at times they used their voices like orchestral instruments.
A haunting atmosphere pervaded the space as Katerinopoulos recited a poem while the others chanted “Niotho – I feel”
Terzaki thanked all the participants and declared “We love performing Ioanna’s poety.” Simopoulos, the music director, who is noted for her improvisational ability, explained how the group blended words and music and movement in just two meetings together.
The guests, who included Amb. Ioannis Vrailas and wife Christiane, then enjoyed fellowship during the reception.