NEW YORK – Columbia University, in collaboration with the Consulate General of the Republic of Cyprus in New York, recently honored the memory of Costas Montis, the man known as the national poet of Cyprus.
The commemoration, which culminated in the unveiling of a bust of the poet which will be permanently displayed on campus, filled a hall with professors, students, dignitaries, and interested guests, many of whom only recently learned of the beloved poet.
The event was sponsored by the Photos Photiades Foundation and the Hellenic Studies Program of Columbia. Lambrini Galiatsatou, of the Permanent Mission of Cyprus to the UN, was the Emcee.
Maria Hadjipolycarpou, lecturer in Comparative Literature at the university, spoke about Montis ’poetry. She noted the timeless messages in the writing which was nevertheless focused on his love for Cyprus and its people.
The Cypriot-born academic emphasized that the poet defined the identity of the island and the Greeks of Cyprus.
The sculptor, Arcady Kotler, was contacted by Vasilios Philippou, the Consul General of Cyprus, to create the bust of Montis. He became very excited about the project when he learned about the work and life of the Cypriot poet.
“I no longer make sculpture of this kind. I now do more conceptual work, but he loves poetry – Kotler, who is from Moscow, was a friend of the late Russian poet Joseph Brodsky – so he made an exception for Montis.
“If they had asked me to make a statue of a general I would have said no,” he told The National Herald.
Stathis Gourgouris, professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at Columbia, briefed attendees on the Greek Studies Program and highlighted the “dynamism” and “lyricism” of Montis’ poetry.
The Foundation, which funded the statue and its installation, was represented by Paul Photiades, who spoke about the cultural activities of the institution and is efforts to elevate the cultural life of Cyprus.
He thanked and congratulated Philippou, as well as Columbia University, for this “important initiative.” Philippou praised the longtime efforts of the Foundation regarding the cultural affairs of Cyprus, and noted in particular its contribution to the creation of the bust of its national poet.
He also noted that the Republic of Cyprus has dedicated 2014 to Montis, who was born 100 years ago and who passed away in 2004.
In a touching moment, Philippou read a poem that Montis had dedicated to him.
Archbishop Demetrios praised Montis’ “patriotic poetry” and noted its Greekness, and people were deeply touched when the poet’s daughter, Stalo Montis-Pouagare, recited one of her father’s greatest poems in Greek and English.
Greetings were also offered by the Greek consul, Manos Koubarakis. After he spoke about Montis’ contributions to Greek literature, he read one of his symbolic poems about the Greek language.
Costas Tsentas, the President of the Cyprus Federation of America, greeted the guests and expressed his appreciation for the endeavor.
Proclamations from were also presented to the Foundation by NY State Senator Michael Gianaris, who was represented by Irene Stathatos, and City Councilman Costa Constantinides, represented by Niki Kokkinos.
Cypriot-American poet and lyricist Polys Kyriakos, brought tears to the eyes of many guests when he recited “Gramma Sti Mitera – Letter to mother.”
The program concluded with readings of Montis’ poems by Columbia students including, Benjamin Moe, Kristen Moustakas, Elena Nikolaou, Ourania Yancopoulos, Lan Yao and Brittany Mae Johnson.