Author and filmmaker Dannis Koromilas spoke with The National Herald about his latest book, a collection of his journals and poems titled Midnight in the Temple of the Gods.
TNH: What inspires you most when writing poems?
Dannis Koromilas: I consider poems the direct ancestors of any song on the radio I have ever heard. Whether it was the blaring radio in the background of my parents’ kitchen when I was young, or while travelling in the backseat of their car in the 1970’s, any poem I dared to write has been a nervous attempt at emulating some songs of my childhood. That could be Vicky Mosholiou or Georgios Dalaras in Greek, or the Electric Light Orchestra or Styx. Regardless of what genre or language, I realized now as I get older, that the songs and words I listened to between 5 and 15 years old have influenced and shaped any line I have ever written, whether a screenplay or piece of prose.
TNH: How has your Greek heritage influenced your work?
DK: My Greek heritage almost consumed me until I was in grade four. The Greek element was an enormous universe that literally consumed and shaped my thoughts. I was raised in a very intense Greek-immigrant home in Toronto, but thankfully, American, British and Canadian songwriters burst my whole world wide open. The Greek influence on any art form is potent. Pure. When they mention archetypal, I think of Hellenic legacy. You can find a Hellenic signature on so much comedy and drama, whether from writers like Leonard Cohen, to blockbuster films like Logan, where even Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine comic book-character succumbs to his mythological Furies.
Personally, I feel the Greeks prepared the human race for poetry and cinema, and their template of tragic stories have fueled imagination for thousands of years. So that being said, it is my blessing to have been thrust into this world from Greeks. Hellenic influence has been enormous and vital to say the least.
TNH: What has been the most rewarding aspect of publishing your poems?
DK: I moved from Toronto to New York City in 1991 to pursue film school and stake my claim in the film/TV/publishing industry. It took almost 20 years for me to get a full-blown drama on an American network, and a best-selling book in Canada. And during that whole time, there was a hierarchy of story-editors, producers, distributors, etc. In television, even if you create a show, someone else has to approve you to get paid for the genesis of the idea, and even the pilot script, because you are unknown? But until then, you were good enough to get the project hijacked?
Poetry is the last stand of human communication via words, without the tampering or toxicity of money. This might sound way too precious but it is not. The Chapters/Indigo book stores in Canada are bereft of a poetry section. I wonder if Barnes and Noble has an actual poetry section anymore in America. Why? Because there is no realistic expectation for financial success in poetry. You really have to have a passion for it.
The greatest reward in publishing Midnight in the Temple of the Gods is that this was a culmination of my most honest and naked writing. Which makes sense to me and that I hope resonates with my friends and family and the audience that has followed me in the last decade or more. Poetry has been relegated to the bottom of the pile for popular entertainment, even though the poem was the purest form of expression for centuries. I believe that in 2022, poetry is the last bastion of literature that really cannot be commercialized. So, this book is my reward. Even you Eleni, investing your creative and journalistic time to this is a true victory.
TNH: What are you working on next?
DK: Cyprus in Winter. The Turkish Invasion of Cyprus on July 20th, 1974 was allowed by the world back then, and now the Ukraine is being destroyed as we watch a repeat of history. When I complete this film about Cyprus this winter, I will be daring any nation involved in the travesty of that Cypriot summer of 1974 to sue me.