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Modern Greek Poets for National Poetry Month

The National Herald

The Scattered Papers of Penelope by Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke. Photo: Amazon

April is National Poetry Month, a wonderful time of year to add some poetry to your reading list. This celebration of poetry was introduced in 1996, organized by the Academy of American Poets to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. Canada adopted the celebration as well in 1998. Many modern Greek poets are available in English translation and even in bilingual Greek-English editions for those who would like to enjoy the poems in their original language as well.

The Scattered Papers of Penelope by Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke, a winner of the Greek National Prize for Poetry and the Greek Academy's Poetry Prize is the first full retrospective collection of the poet's work available in English. The book draws on the rich traditions of Greek myth, history, and art. Translated from the Greek by a selection of noted scholars, including the book's editor Karen Van Dyck, Anghelaki-Rooke's poetry is powerful. Greek history and myth are re-examined, while prose poems tackle themes including modern violence and dictatorship. Lyric descriptions of domestic life on the poet's home island of Aegina are also featured among the poems in the collection.

A Greek Quintet: Poems by Cavafy, Sikelianos, Seferis, Elytis, and Gatsos, selected and translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, is a fine anthology highlighting the work of the famous Greek poets of the 20th century.

Cross-Section: An Anthology of Contemporary Greek Poetry was published in English in 2015 by a team of translators including Dimitri Charalambous, Peter Constantine, Ismini Ioannou, Jack Hirschman, and contributing editor Dinos Siotis. This comprehensive collection includes 143 poets from Nanos Valaoritis, born in 1921, to promising newcomer Alexandros Damoulianos, born in 1990.

The National Herald

Austerity Measures: The New Greek Poetry, edited by Karen Van Dyck. (Photo: Amazon)

Poetry collections revolving around a theme, like the economic crisis, include Austerity Measures: The New Greek Poetry, edited by Karen Van Dyck. The book features English translations of contemporary Greek poets writing about the economic crisis, some appearing in translation for the first time. At 496 pages, this hefty edition published by Penguin offers a unique look at the crisis thorugh an impressive range of poetic voices. Austerity Measures is available in bookstores and online.

First published in 2015, Crisis: Greek Poets on the Current Crisis, edited by Dinos Siotis is a bilingual Greek/English volume exploring the economic crisis through the poetry of 34 contemporary poets, including Valaoritis, Kiki Dimoula, and Titos Patrikios. Inspired by the harsh realities of life, the poems in the collection are powerful and moving.

The Rehearsal of Misunderstanding is a bilingual Greek/English poetry collection featuring the work of three Greek women poets, The Cake by Rhea Galanaki, Tales of the Deep by Jenny Mastoraki, and Hers by Maria Laina. Translated into English by Van Dyck, the poems reflect the unique experience of these talented women poets. Students at the University of Athens when the colonels seized control of the government in 1967, all three poets were influenced profoundly by the censorship imposed at the time. Written in the 1980's, their poems reflect the continuing struggle against misunderstanding and misrepresentation for poets writing about gender and identity in the late 20th century.