Books and Poetry to Add to Your Reading List

Poetry and prose by Maro Sideri. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

April is a busy month for many people. Book lovers, however, always make time for reading. It is also National Poetry Month, so enjoy some verse from your favorite poets or any of the following.

Dionysios Solomos, the national poet of Greece, was born on April 8, 1798 in Zakynthos. In May 1823, Solomos completed the Hymn to Liberty, 158 stanzas, inspired by the 1821 start of the Greek Revolution. The poem was published in Greece in 1824 and throughout Europe one year later. Solomos’ reputation soon spread throughout Greece and abroad. The Hymn to Liberty was set to music by Nikolaos Mantzaros, and is the longest national anthem in the world by length of text. In 1865, the first three stanzas (and later the first two) officially became the National Anthem of Greece and, from 1966, also that of the Republic of Cyprus.

The unfinished epic The Free Besieged (Greek: Οι Ελεύθεροι Πολιορκημένοι, Oi Eleftheroi Poliorkimenoi) by Dionysios Solomos was inspired by the third siege of Missolonghi (1825–1826), a crucial conflict in the Greek Revolution. It consists of three separate poems in fragmentary form, and though never completed, The Free Besieged is considered one of Solomos’ greatest poems.

Megali Evdomada stin Psyche Mou (Holy Week in my Soul) by Maro Sideri is a fascinating poetry collection inspired by Holy Week. In her introduction to the book, Sideri noted that her allies through the writing process were the Byzantine hymns for Holy Week along with the Brandenberg Concerto by Johann Sebastian Bach and the music of modern Greek classical composer Stamatis Spanoudakis. Sideri has also written the novel To Telos tou Anthropou Pou ton Elegan Iesou (The End of the Person called Jesus) which offers a unique perspective on the final days of Jesus.

On April 17, 485 AD, Proclus Lycaeus, called the Successor, passed away at the age of 73 in Athens. Proclus was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, one of the last of the main classical philosophers towards the end of classical philosophy development. His writings and type of thought influenced Western medieval philosophy in Greek and Latin. During the Middle Ages, Boethius wrote Consolation of Philosophy, which includes many of Proclus’ principles and motifs.

A favorite among poetry enthusiasts, George Seferis: Collected Poems 1924-1955 is a bilingual edition and revises the two earlier editions published in 1967 and 1969. It presents, for the first time, the complete Notes for a Week,Three Secret Poems, and three later poems that were not collected by the poet himself but whose English translation he authorized during his lifetime.Originally published in 1982, the latest edition of the book was published in 2014 by the Princeton Legacy Library.

Seferis’ A Levant Journal translated into English by Roderick Beaton details Seferis’ time in the Middle East with wonderful passages of travel writing, describing what he sees and also looking deeper into the issues affecting the region at the time. The Hellenistic influence in the Middle East and the religious sites are thoughtfully delineated in the journal.